Information on exposure levels to organochlorine compounds (OCs) in child population is limited, despite their greater vulnerability to the adverse health effects of these chemicals.
To determine serum concentrations of 10 OCs (including organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls –PCBs–) in children living in agricultural communities from Almería (South-Eastern Spain), and to identify the main predictors of exposure related to socio-economic characteristics, diet and lifestyle.
A cross-sectional study was conducted on 133 children aged 6–11 years selected from public schools of the study area. OCs compounds were determined in serum samples by GC/ECD. Anthropometric measures were obtained during sample collection. Information on sociodemographic characteristics, parental occupation, residential history, lifestyle and frequency of food consumption, among other relevant factors, was obtained by questionnaires administered to the mothers.
Geometric means of serum concentrations (ng/ml) were 0.11 for β-hexachloro-cyclohexane (β-HCH), 0.09 for endosulfan, 0.20 for endosulfan-ether, 0.51 for hexachorobenzene (HCB), 0.08 for mirex, 0.06 for oxychlordane, 0.36 for p,p’-DDE, 0.20 for PCB 138, 0.36 for PCB 153, and 0.45 for PCB 180. Percentage of samples above the limit of detection (0.05 ppb) ranged from 32 (β-HCH) to 100 (HCB). A high variability in OC levels depending on the compound was observed between our results and others found in similar studies carried out in children. Variables related to fish consumption were found to be the major dietary determinant of PCB 138, p,p´-DDE, endosulfan-α, β-HCH, mirex and oxychlordane levels.
Children participating in this study showed detectable levels of many OC, despite these compounds are no longer used. Their presence in children serum can be explained by their high lipophilicity and environmental persistence, leading to contamination of fatty food. In this line, fish consumption seemed to be the most relevant determinant of OC levels found in our study.