Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jan;117(1):122-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800003. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Intrauterine exposure to environmental pollutants and body mass index during the first 3 years of life.

Author information

Department of Pediatrics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium.



We investigated the association between body mass index (BMI) standard deviation score (SDS) and prenatal exposure to hexachlorobenzene, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), dioxin-like compounds, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).


In this prospective birth cohort study, we assessed a random sample of mother-infant pairs (n = 138) living in Flanders, Belgium, with follow-up until the children were 3 years of age. We measured body mass index as standard deviation scores (BMI SDS) of children 1-3 years of age as well as pollutants measured in cord blood.


DDE correlated with BMI SDS, with effect modification by maternal smoking and the child's age. At 1 year, children of smoking mothers had higher BMI SDS than did children of nonsmoking mothers. At 3 years, this difference was reduced because of the faster rate of decline in BMI SDS in the former group. This relationship held except for children with high levels of DDE. DDE had a small effect on BMI SDS at 3 years of age in children of nonsmoking mothers (difference in BMI SDS for DDE concentrations between the 90th and 10th percentiles = 0.13). On the other hand, smoking enhanced the relation between DDE and BMI SDS at 3 years (difference in BMI SDS for DDE concentrations between the 90th and 10th percentiles = 0.76). Increasing concentrations of PCBs were associated with higher BMI SDS values at all ages (parameter estimate = 0.003 +/- 0.001; p = 0.03).


In this study we demonstrated that intrauterine exposure to DDE and PCBs is associated with BMI during early childhood. Future studies are warranted to confirm our findings and to assess possible mechanisms by which these pollutants could alter energy metabolism.


body mass index; childhood; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene; dioxin-like compounds; hexachlorobenzene; obesity; polychlorinated biphenyls

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center