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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jul;114(7):1133-8.

Persistent pesticides in human breast milk and cryptorchidism.

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University Department of Growth and Reproduction, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Prenatal exposure to some pesticides can adversely affect male reproductive health in animals. We investigated a possible human association between maternal exposure to 27 organochlorine compounds used as pesticides and cryptorchidism among male children.


Within a prospective birth cohort, we performed a case-control study; 62 milk samples from mothers of cryptorchid boys and 68 from mothers of healthy boys were selected. Milk was collected as individual pools between 1 and 3 months postpartum and analyzed for 27 organochlorine pesticides.


Eight organochlorine pesticides were measurable in all samples (medians; nanograms per gram lipid) for cases/controls: 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl) ethylene (p,p -DDE) : 97.3/83.8; beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH) : 13.6/12.3; hexachlorobenzene (HCB) : 10.6/8.8; alpha-endosulfan: 7.0/6.7; oxychlordane: 4.5/4.1; 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl) ethane (p,p -DDT) : 4.6/4.0; dieldrin: 4.1/3.1 ; cis-heptachloroepoxide (cis-HE) : 2.5/2.2. Five compounds [octachlorostyrene (OCS); pentachlorobenzene, 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl) ethane(p,p -DDD) ; o,p -DDT ; mirex] were measurable in most samples (detection rates 90.8-99.2%) but in lower concentrations. For methoxychlor, cis-chlordane, pentachloroanisole (PCA), gamma-HCH, 1,1-dichloro-2-(2-chlorophenyl) -2,2(4-chlorophenyl) ethane, trans-chlordane, alpha-HCH, and o,p -DDE, both concentrations and detection rates were low (26.5-71.5%). Heptachlor, HCH (lc delta, epsilon), aldrin, beta-endosulfan and trans-heptachloroepoxide were detected at negligible concentrations and low detection rates and were not analyzed further. Seventeen of 21 organochlorine pesticides [p,p -DDT, p,p-DDE, p,p-DDD, o,p-DDT, HCH (alpha, beta, gamma), HCB, PCA, alpha-endosulfan, cis-HE, chlordane (cis-, trans-) oxychlordane, methoxychlor, OCS, and dieldrin] were measured in higher median concentrations in case milk than in control milk. Apart from trans-chlordane (p = 0.012), there were no significant differences between cryptorchid and healthy boys for individual chemicals. However, combined statistical analysis of the eight most abundant persistent pesticides showed that pesticide levels in breast milk were significantly higher in boys with cryptorchidism (p = 0.032).


The association between congenital cryptorchidism and some persistent pesticides in breast milk as a proxy for maternal exposure suggests that testicular descent in the fetus may be adversely affected.

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