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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30093. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030093. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Associations between organochlorine pesticides and vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. population.

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  • 1Department of Preventative Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea.



Recently low dose organochlorine (OC) pesticides have been strongly linked to various chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Both field and animal studies have suggested a possibility that persistent lipophilic chemicals like OC pesticides can cause vitamin D deficiency, but there have been no human studies of exposure to any chemical as a possible cause of vitamin D deficiency. This study was performed to examine if serum concentrations of OC pesticides were associated with serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) in the U.S. general population.


Cross-sectional associations of serum OC pesticides with serum 25(OH)D were investigated in 1,275 subjects aged ≥20 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2003-2004. We selected 7 OC pesticides detectable in ≥80% of participants. Among the 7 OC pesticides, p,p'-DDT (β = -0.022, P<0.01), p,p'-DDE (β = -0.018, P = 0.04), and β-hexachlorocyclohexane (β = -0.022, P = 0.02) showed significant inverse associations with serum 25(OH)D levels. When study subjects were stratified by age, race, and the presence of various chronic diseases, p,p'-DDT showed consistent inverse associations in all subgroups, although stronger associations tended to be observed among subjects with old age, white race, or chronic diseases.


The current study suggests that the background exposure to some OC pesticides leads to vitamin D deficiency in human. Considering the importance of vitamin D deficiency in the development of chronic diseases, chemical exposure as a possible cause of vitamin D deficiency should be evaluated in prospective and experimental studies.

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