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Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Nov 15;164(10):955-62. Epub 2006 Sep 12.

In utero exposure to background concentrations of DDT and cognitive functioning among preschoolers.

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  • 1Respiratory and Environmental Health Research Unit, Institut Municipal Investigació Mèdica (IMIM), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


p,p'-DDT (bis[p-chlorophenyl]-1,1,1-trichloroethane) is a persistent organochlorine compound that has been used worldwide as an insecticide. The authors evaluated the association of cord serum levels of DDT and its metabolite, 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene (DDE), with neurodevelopment at age 4 years. Two birth cohorts in Ribera d'Ebre and Menorca (Spain) were recruited between 1997 and 1999 (n = 475). Infants were assessed at age 4 years by using the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities. Organochlorine compounds were measured in cord serum. Children's diet and parental sociodemographic information was obtained through questionnaire. Results showed that DDT cord serum concentration at birth was inversely associated with verbal, memory, quantitative, and perceptual-performance skills at age 4 years. Children whose DDT concentrations in cord serum were >0.20 ng/ml had mean decreases of 7.86 (standard error, 3.21) points in the verbal scale and 10.86 (standard error, 4.33) points in the memory scale when compared with children whose concentrations were <0.05 ng/ml. These associations were stronger among girls. Prenatal exposure to background, low-level concentrations of DDT was associated with a decrease in preschoolers' cognitive skills. These results should be considered when evaluating the risk and benefits of spraying DDT during antimalaria and other disease-vector campaigns.

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