Serum concentrations and detection rates of selected organochlorine pesticides in a sample of Greek school-aged children with neurodevelopmental disorders

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2019 Aug;26(23):23739-23753. doi: 10.1007/s11356-019-05666-1. Epub 2019 Jun 17.


Prospective studies indicate that the exposure to organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) during fetal life, infancy, and early childhood may be associated with features of neurodevelopmental disorders in children. However, few studies have investigated the concentrations of serum OCPs in children with categorically diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders. The aim of this study was to assess the concentrations and detection rates of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) metabolites, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) isomers, cyclodienes, and methoxychlor in serum samples of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and specific learning disorder (SLD), all of normal intelligence, compared to typically developing controls (TD). In total, 114 schoolchildren, aged 6-13 years old, were assessed and distributed into four groups: ASD (n = 39), ADHD (n = 21), SLD (n = 32), and TD (n = 18). Each clinical group was compared to the TD group. Concentrations of serum OCPs were determined by gas chromatography and are presented as ng/g lipid. Concentrations of β-HCH, the sum of HCH isomers, and o,p'-DDD were significantly higher in ASD children: ASD vs. TD (mean ± SD): 10.5 ± 7.7 vs. 6.1 ± 4.0, (p = 0.049); 12.0 ± 10.3 vs. 6.6 ± 4.0, (p = 0.025); 7.4 ± 6.5 vs. 2.8 ± 2.3, (p = 0.0019), respectively. The detection rates of p,p'-DDT, at least one substance from DDTs detected, and the cyclodiene heptachlor epoxide, were significantly lower in the ASD group: ASD vs. TD: 12.8% vs. 38.9%, (p = 0.037); 69.2% vs. 94.4%, (p = 0.044); 10.3% vs. 38.9%, (p = 0.026), respectively. No significant differences between the ADHD or SLD groups and the TD group were observed. We demonstrated higher serum concentrations and lower detection rates of selected OCPs in ASD than TD children. Our results add to potential neurodevelopmental concerns surrounding OCPs and provide evidence of specificity in the relations between HCHs and ASD.

Keywords: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Autism spectrum disorder; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Organochlorine pesticides; Persistent organic pollutants; Specific learning disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology
  • Child
  • China
  • DDT / analysis
  • DDT / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • DDT
  • beta-hexachlorocyclohexane