Estimated postnatal p,p'-DDT and p,p'-DDE levels and body mass index at 42 months of age in a longitudinal study of Japanese children

Environ Health. 2020 May 11;19(1):49. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-00603-z.


Background: Children are exposed to p,p'-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p'-DDT) and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) through placental and lactational transfer. Some studies have suggested that early-life exposure to these compounds could lead to increased body mass index (BMI) during childhood. Our aim was to assess whether children's exposure during the first 2 years of life is associated with BMI z-score in Japanese children at 42 months of age.

Methods: We used data from a birth cohort (n = 290) of the Tohoku Study of Child Development. p,p'-DDT and p,p'-DDE levels were measured in breast milk samples collected 1 month after birth, and levels in children were estimated using a toxicokinetic model for three exposure periods (0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months). Associations between exposure estimates and BMI z-score at 42 months of age were assessed using multivariate linear regression models.

Results: We found no significant association between levels of p,p'-DDT measured in breast milk or estimated in children and BMI z-score. However, we observed associations between estimated p,p'-DDE levels in girls during all postnatal exposure periods and BMI z-score; for each log increase in the estimated p,p'-DDE levels, BMI z-score increased by 0.23 (C.I. 95%: 0.01, 0.45) for the 0-6 months exposure period, 0.26 (C.I. 95%: 0.06, 0.47) for the 6-12 months exposure period, and 0.24 (C.I. 95%: 0.05, 0.43) for the 12-24 months exposure period.

Conclusion: In this study of Japanese children, estimated postnatal p,p'-DDE levels were associated with increased BMI z-score at 42 months of age, mostly in girls. These results are in line with previous studies supporting that early-life exposure to p,p'-DDE may be associated with higher BMI during childhood.

Keywords: Body mass index (BMI); Breast milk; Postnatal exposure; Toxicokinetic modeling; p,p’-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p’-DDE); p,p’-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p’-DDT).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • DDT / metabolism*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / metabolism*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / metabolism
  • Japan
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT

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