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Chemosphere. 2013 Feb;90(5):1704-10. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.09.083. Epub 2012 Nov 6.

Organochlorine pesticide residues in maternal blood, cord blood, placenta, and breastmilk and their relation to birth size.

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Department of Pediatrics, University College of Medical Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, University of Delhi, Delhi 110 095, India.


There is a growing concern that persistent organic pollutants like organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) can impair fetal growth and affect birth size. However, currently available epidemiological evidence is inconclusive. In this case-control study, we examined the association between exposure to hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and its isomers (α-HCH, β-HCH and γ-HCH), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and birth size. We recruited 60 infant-mother pairs, comprising of 30 term, small for gestational age babies with their mothers (Case group), and another 30 term, appropriate for gestational age babies with their mothers (Control group). This study was conducted in a tertiary hospital in Delhi, India, between March, 2009 and February 2010. Organochlorine pesticides were estimated in maternal blood, cord blood, placenta and breastmilk samples, using gas-liquid chromatography. Transplacental and transmammary transfer of OCPs was assessed by correlating the maternal blood OCP levels with those in cord blood and breastmilk by simple linear regression. The birthweight, crown heel length, head circumference, mid-arm circumference and ponderal index of the neonates was correlated with OCP levels in the maternal blood, cord blood, placenta and breastmilk. The OCP estimates were compared between samples of the case and control group. There was a significant (P<0.001) transplacental transfer of all OCPs, however the transmammary transfer was insignificant for most OCPs except α-HCH. The OCP levels in the case group were higher than the control group; these were significantly more for t-HCH in cord blood and breastmilk; β-HCH in maternal blood, cord blood and breastmilk; DDE in placenta and DDT in breastmilk. There was a significant negative correlation between birthweight and t-HCH levels in maternal blood (P=0.022), cord blood (P<0.001), placenta (P=0.008) and breastmilk (P=0.005); β-HCH in cord blood (P<0.001) and placenta (P=0.020); γ-HCH in placenta (P=0.045); and DDT (P=0.009). Length at birth had a significant negative correlation with t-HCH in cord blood (P=0.014) and breastmilk (P<0.001); β-HCH in cord blood (P=0.016) and breastmilk (P=0.012); DDE in placenta (P=0.016); and DDT in breastmilk (P=0.006). Similarly, OCP levels were also found to be negatively correlated with head circumference, ponderal index and chest circumference in neonates. We conclude that prenatal exposure to some OCPs could impair the anthropometric development of the fetus, reducing the birthweight, length, head circumference, chest circumference and ponderal index.

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