Prenatal exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants and female reproductive function in young adulthood

Susanne Lund Kristensen, Cecilia Høst Ramlau-Hansen, Erik Ernst, Sjurdur Frodi Olsen, Jens Peter Bonde, Anne Vested, Thorhallur Ingi Halldorsson, Panu Rantakokko, Hannu Kiviranta, Gunnar Toft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The biopersistent organochlorine pollutants dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can be detected in humans worldwide. The chemicals can cross the placenta and may interfere with endogenous hormonal homeostasis.OBJECTIVES: To investigate effects on female reproduction following intrauterine exposure to selected biopersistent organochlorines.METHODS: We used data from a Danish pregnancy cohort with follow-up on 436 eligible daughters at approximately 20years of age. Information on age of menarche (n=335), menstrual cycle length (n=230) and serum concentrations of reproductive hormones (n=243) was obtained. Number of antral follicles was counted by vaginal ultrasound (n=147). Of 244 daughters who attended clinical examination, 170 used hormonal contraceptives and 74 were non-users. Concentrations of p,p'-DDE, HCB and six PCB congeners were analysed in maternal serum samples obtained in pregnancy week 30.RESULTS: Age of menarche and menstrual cycle length were found not to be statistically significant associated with prenatal organochlorine exposure. Among non-users of hormonal contraceptives with information on antral follicle number (n=43), daughters exposed to the highest tertile of p,p'-DDE had 28% (95% confidence interval (95% CI): 5; 46%) lower follicle number compared to the low-level exposed reference group. Those exposed to medium and higher levels of HCB had 30% (95% CI: 5; 48%) and 28% (95% CI: 7; 44%) lower follicle number compared to the reference group. Furthermore, maternal serum HCB concentrations were inversely associated with free androgen index among non-users of hormonal contraceptives (n=73). These associations were not found in users of hormonal contraceptives.CONCLUSIONS: Among non-users of hormonal contraceptives, we found indications of adverse long-term effects on female reproduction following prenatal exposure to biopersistent organochlorines. These findings may have wide implications for public health as intrauterine exposure occurs worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-372
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants/adverse effects
  • Female reproduction
  • Fetal Development
  • Gestational Age
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated/adverse effects
  • Menarche
  • Placenta/chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Reproduction
  • Young Adult
  • Persistent organochlorines
  • Ovary


Dive into the research topics of 'Prenatal exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants and female reproductive function in young adulthood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this