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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Dec;108(12):1113-24.

Effects on the immune system associated with living near a pesticide dump site.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC , USA.


In this paper, we report results of the second phase of a larger study designed to evaluate the effects on the immune system of living near a Superfund site containing organochlorine pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and metals. Phase II was conducted to determine whether living near the site, consisting of six locations in Aberdeen, North Carolina, is associated with higher plasma organochlorine levels, immune suppression, or DNA damage. Each of 302 residents of Aberdeen and neighboring communities provided a blood specimen, underwent a skin test, and answered a questionnaire. Blood specimens were analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, immune markers, and micronuclei. Of 20 organochlorines tested, only DDE was detected in the blood of participants (except for one individual). Age-adjusted mean plasma DDE levels were 4.05 ppb for Aberdeen residents and 2.95 ppb (p = 0.01) for residents of neighboring communities. Residents of 40-59 years of age who lived within a mile of any site, but particularly the Farm Chemicals site, had higher plasma DDE levels than residents who lived farther away. Residents who lived near the Farm Chemicals site before versus after 1985 also had higher plasma DDE levels. Overall, there were few differences in immune markers between residents of Aberdeen and the neighboring communities. However, residents who lived closer to the dump sites had statistically significantly lower mitogen-induced lymphoproliferative activity than residents who lived farther away (p < 0.05). Residential location was not consistently associated with frequency of micronuclei or skin test responses. Although some statistically significant differences in immune markers were noted in association with residential location, the magnitude of effects are of uncertain clinical importance.

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