Mobilization of Environmental Toxicants Following Bariatric Surgery

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Nov;27(11):1865-1873. doi: 10.1002/oby.22618.


Objective: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are lipophilic environmental toxicants that accumulate in adipose tissue. Weight loss leads to mobilization and increased redistribution of these toxicants. Many are obesogens and endocrine disruptors. Increased exposure could pose long-term health risks. The study objective was to measure the changes in serum concentrations of lipophilic POPs during significant weight loss.

Methods: This study enrolled 27 patients at a university hospital in a longitudinal, 6-month, observational study examining changes in POP blood levels after bariatric surgery. The primary outcome was the changes in the concentrations of 24 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 9 organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), 11 polybrominated diphenyl ethers, 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexabromobiphenyl, and 4 perfluorochemicals (PFCs).

Results: Older adults (those born before 1976) had baseline levels of PCBs, OCPs, and PFCs that were two- to fivefold higher than younger adults (those born after 1976). Older adults had greater increases in PCBs, OCPs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers associated with weight loss. Conversely, younger adults had greater increases in PFCs associated with weight loss. On average, blood POP levels increased as weight loss occurred.

Conclusions: Although weight loss is considered beneficial, the release and redistribution of POPs to other lipid-rich organs such as the brain, kidneys, and liver warrant further investigation. Interventions should be considered to limit organ exposure to POPs when weight loss interventions are planned.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / analysis
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / pharmacokinetics
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / blood
  • Obesity, Morbid / metabolism
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Pesticides / pharmacokinetics
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Postoperative Period
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls