Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of envhperEnvironmental Health PerspectivesBrowse ArticlesAbout EHPGeneral InformationAuthorsMediaProgramsPartnerships
Environ Health Perspect. 1999 January; 107(1): 75–81.
PMCID: PMC1566315
Research Article

Predictors of plasma concentrations of DDE and PCBs in a group of U.S. women.


We evaluated predictors of plasma concentrations of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a metabolite of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in a group of 240 women, controls from a breast cancer case-control study nested in the Nurses' Health Study. We considered personal attributes such as age, serum cholesterol, region of residence, adiposity, lactation, and dietary intake. DDE levels increased 0.17 ppb/year of age (p = 0.0003), and PCBs increased 0.08 ppb (p = 0.0001). DDE and PCBs increased 0.20 (p = 0.02) and 0.13 ppb (p = 0.001), respectively, per 10 mg/dl serum cholesterol. Women living in the western United States had higher levels of DDE (mean = 11.0 ppb; p = 0.003), and women in the Northeast and Midwest had higher levels of PCBs (mean = 5.6 ppb; p = 0.0002) as compared to women from other parts of the country (mean DDE = 6.3; mean PCBs = 4. 5 ppb). Levels of DDE could not be predicted from consumption of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and grains. There was a positive association between fish consumption and PCB concentrations among women in the Northeast and Midwest. Using data from the cases in the nested case-control study to assess the predictive ability of the models, we confirmed that the most reliable predictors of DDE were age and serum cholesterol, and the most important predictors of PCBs were age, serum cholesterol, and residence in the Midwest or Northeast. The null results for the majority of the food variables suggest that specific dietary factors, other than fish, are not currently a substantial contributor to human exposure to DDE and PCBs.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.8M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • López-Carrillo L, Torres-Arreola L, Torres-Sánchez L, Espinosa-Torres F, Jiménez C, Cebrián M, Waliszewski S, Saldate O. Is DDT use a public health problem in Mexico? Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Jun;104(6):584–588. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Kutz FW, Wood PH, Bottimore DP. Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in human adipose tissue. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1991;120:1–82. [PubMed]
  • Wolff MS. Pesticides--how research has succeeded and failed in informing policy: DDT and the link with breast cancer. Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Sep;103 (Suppl 6):87–91. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Robinson PE, Mack GA, Remmers J, Levy R, Mohadjer L. Trends of PCB, hexachlorobenzene, and beta-benzene hexachloride levels in the adipose tissue of the U.S. population. Environ Res. 1990 Dec;53(2):175–192. [PubMed]
  • Ahlborg UG, Lipworth L, Titus-Ernstoff L, Hsieh CC, Hanberg A, Baron J, Trichopoulos D, Adami HO. Organochlorine compounds in relation to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and endometriosis: an assessment of the biological and epidemiological evidence. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1995;25(6):463–531. [PubMed]
  • Veith GD, Kuehl DW, Leonard EN, Welch K, Pratt G. Polychlorinated biphenyls and other organic chemical residues in fish from major United States watersheds near the Great Lakes, 1978. Pestic Monit J. 1981 Jun;15(1):1–8. [PubMed]
  • Foran JA, Cox M, Croxton D. Sport fish consumption advisories and projected cancer risks in the Great Lakes basin. Am J Public Health. 1989 Mar;79(3):322–325. [PubMed]
  • Willett LB, Liu TT, Durst HI, Cardwell BD, Renkie ED. Quantification and distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls in farm silos. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1985 Jul;35(1):51–60. [PubMed]
  • Schantz SL, Jacobson JL, Humphrey HE, Jacobson SW, Welch R, Gasior D. Determinants of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the sera of mothers and children from Michigan farms with PCB-contaminated silos. Arch Environ Health. 1994 Nov-Dec;49(6):452–458. [PubMed]
  • Stehr-Green PA. Demographic and seasonal influences on human serum pesticide residue levels. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1989;27(4):405–421. [PubMed]
  • Hunter DJ, Hankinson SE, Laden F, Colditz GA, Manson JE, Willett WC, Speizer FE, Wolff MS. Plasma organochlorine levels and the risk of breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 1997 Oct 30;337(18):1253–1258. [PubMed]
  • Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hunter DJ, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Longcope C, Speizer FE. Alcohol, height, and adiposity in relation to estrogen and prolactin levels in postmenopausal women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Sep 6;87(17):1297–1302. [PubMed]
  • Willett WC, Sampson L, Stampfer MJ, Rosner B, Bain C, Witschi J, Hennekens CH, Speizer FE. Reproducibility and validity of a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Am J Epidemiol. 1985 Jul;122(1):51–65. [PubMed]
  • Wolff MS, Rivera M, Baker DB. Detection limits of organochlorine pesticides and related compounds in blood serum. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1991 Oct;47(4):499–503. [PubMed]
  • Wolff MS, Toniolo PG, Lee EW, Rivera M, Dubin N. Blood levels of organochlorine residues and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993 Apr 21;85(8):648–652. [PubMed]
  • Laden F, Wolff MS, Niguidula NJ, Spiegelman D, Hankinson SE, Hunter DJ. Reduced aliquot size for a plasma organochlorine assay for use in epidemiological studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1997 May;6(5):333–338. [PubMed]
  • Allain CC, Poon LS, Chan CS, Richmond W, Fu PC. Enzymatic determination of total serum cholesterol. Clin Chem. 1974 Apr;20(4):470–475. [PubMed]
  • MacIntosh DL, Spengler JD, Ozkaynak H, Tsai L, Ryan PB. Dietary exposures to selected metals and pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Feb;104(2):202–209. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Akins JR, Waldrep K, Bernert JT., Jr The estimation of total serum lipids by a completely enzymatic 'summation' method. Clin Chim Acta. 1989 Oct 16;184(3):219–226. [PubMed]
  • Phillips DL, Pirkle JL, Burse VW, Bernert JT, Jr, Henderson LO, Needham LL. Chlorinated hydrocarbon levels in human serum: effects of fasting and feeding. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1989 Jul-Aug;18(4):495–500. [PubMed]
  • Hovinga ME, Sowers M, Humphrey HE. Environmental exposure and lifestyle predictors of lead, cadmium, PCB, and DDT levels in Great Lakes fish eaters. Arch Environ Health. 1993 Mar-Apr;48(2):98–104. [PubMed]
  • van't Veer P, Lobbezoo IE, Martín-Moreno JM, Guallar E, Gómez-Aracena J, Kardinaal AF, Kohlmeier L, Martin BC, Strain JJ, Thamm M, et al. DDT (dicophane) and postmenopausal breast cancer in Europe: case-control study. BMJ. 1997 Jul 12;315(7100):81–85. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Rogan WJ, Gladen BC, McKinney JD, Carreras N, Hardy P, Thullen J, Tingelstad J, Tully M. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (DDE) in human milk: effects of maternal factors and previous lactation. Am J Public Health. 1986 Feb;76(2):172–177. [PubMed]
  • Stehr-Green PA, Farrar JA, Burse VW, Royce WG, Wohlleb JC. A survey of measured levels and dietary sources of selected organochlorine pesticide residues and metabolites in human sera from a rural population. Am J Public Health. 1988 Jul;78(7):828–830. [PubMed]
  • DeVoto E, Kohlmeier L, Heeschen W. Some dietary predictors of plasma organochlorine concentrations in an elderly German population. Arch Environ Health. 1998 Mar-Apr;53(2):147–155. [PubMed]
  • Kreiss K. Studies on populations exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls. Environ Health Perspect. 1985 May;60:193–199. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Coulston F. Reconsideration of the dilemma of DDT for the establishment of an acceptable daily intake. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1985 Dec;5(4):332–383. [PubMed]
  • MacIntosh DL, Williams PL, Hunter DJ, Sampson LA, Morris SC, Willett WC, Rimm EB. Evaluation of a food frequency questionnaire-food composition approach for estimating dietary intake of inorganic arsenic and methylmercury. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1997 Dec;6(12):1043–1050. [PubMed]
  • Romieu I, Stampfer MJ, Stryker WS, Hernandez M, Kaplan L, Sober A, Rosner B, Willett WC. Food predictors of plasma beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol: validation of a food frequency questionnaire. Am J Epidemiol. 1990 May;131(5):864–876. [PubMed]
  • London SJ, Sacks FM, Caesar J, Stampfer MJ, Siguel E, Willett WC. Fatty acid composition of subcutaneous adipose tissue and diet in postmenopausal US women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Aug;54(2):340–345. [PubMed]
  • Duarte-Davidson R, Jones KC. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the UK population: estimated intake, exposure and body burden. Sci Total Environ. 1994 Jul 11;151(2):131–152. [PubMed]
  • Mes J, Newsome WH, Conacher HB. Levels of specific polychlorinated biphenyl congeners in fatty foods from five Canadian cities between 1986 and 1988. Food Addit Contam. 1991 May-Jun;8(3):351–361. [PubMed]

Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science