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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Apr;114(4):597-602.

Association of in utero organochlorine pesticide exposure and fetal growth and length of gestation in an agricultural population.

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Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control, California Department of Health Services, Richmond, CA 94804, USA.


From 1940 through the 1970s, organochlorine compounds were widely used as insecticides in the United States. Thereafter, their use was severely restricted after recognition of their persistence in the environment, their toxicity in animals, and their potential for endocrine disruption. Although substantial evidence exists for the fetal toxicity of organochlorines in animals, information on human reproductive effects is conflicting. We investigated whether infants' length of gestation, birth weight, and crown-heel length were associated with maternal serum levels of 11 different organochlorine pesticides: p,p -dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p -DDT), p,p -dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p -DDE), o,p -dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (o,p -DDT), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (gamma-HCCH), gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (gamma-HCCH), dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor, and mirex. Our subjects were a birth cohort of 385 low-income Latinas living in the Salinas Valley, an agricultural community in California. We observed no adverse associations between maternal serum organochlorine levels and birth weight or crown-heel length. We found decreased length of gestation with increasing levels of lipid-adjusted HCB (adjusted gamma = -0.47 weeks; p = 0.05). We did not find reductions in gestational duration associated with any of the other organochlorine pesticides. Our finding of decreased length of gestation related to HCB does not seem to have had clinical implications for this population, given its relatively low rate of preterm delivery (6.5%).

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