Background: Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is an organochlorine pesticide still used in areas of the world where malaria vector control is needed. Few studies have examined in utero exposures to DDT in relation to fetal and early childhood growth in populations with substantial exposure to DDT. Furthermore, only a portion of these studies have investigated in utero exposures and growth during childhood.
Methods: To assess the role of in utero exposures to DDT on fetal and early childhood growth, we analyzed data from mothers and children who participated in the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS), a cohort study of 20,754 women and their pregnancies conducted in the San Francisco Bay area during the 1960s. We measured p,p′-DDE, o,p′-DDT, and p,p′-DDT concentrations from the stored sera of 399 women collected during pregnancy. Outcomes were measured at the child's birth and at 5 years of age.
Results: Maternal p,p′-DDE concentrations were considerable in this study, averaging 6.9 micrograms per gram lipid. After covariate adjustment, a small increase in gestational age was observed with increases in p,p′-DDT and o,p′-DDT, but there was no association with p,p′-DDE. At 5 years of age, an increase from the 25th to the 75th percentile in p,p′-DDE was related to a 2-mm increase in head circumference (95% confidence interval = 0 to 4). Overall effect sizes were small and imprecise. Furthermore, there was little evidence of specificity for a given outcome or exposure at either age.
Conclusions: At the concentrations studied in this sample, DDT compounds did not appear to impair fetal or 5-year growth.