Laura del Pilar Torres Arreola
M.D., M.Sc., Dr.P.H. Candidate

Dr. Torres Arreola is a Medical Doctor and a Dr. PH candidate with expertise in reproductive health and health systems. She is currently an Associate Researcher in the Epidemiological Investigations Unit of one of Mexico’s largest hospitals, the Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI. Dr. Torres Arreola was awarded the Irving J. Selikoff Scholarship in 1999 in order to support her investigation of the relationship between preterm births and maternal organochlorine serum levels. She worked with Dr. Gertrud Svala Berkowitz, Ph.D. on this project. Dr. Torres Arreola’s additional research interest include work conditions and stress during pregnancy and their reproductive outcomes in women and their effects on newborns, social networks and childhood cancer, health needs of poorer urban populations and rehabilitation in patients with stroke and the social and economic impacts on their families.

Institutional Affiliation

Unidad de Investigación Epidemiológica
Servicios de Salud
Centro Médico Nacional SigloXXI
Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social

Mailing Address

Unidad de Investigación Epidemiológica
Edificio de la Dirección Regional.
Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI. IMSS.
Cuauhtemoc #330
Col. Doctores, Piso 3

E-mail Address

Irving J. Selikoff Scholarship Project

Preterm Birth in Relation to Maternal Organochlorine Serum Levels.

Considerable attention has been focused on a possible link between the persistent orchanochlorine insecticide p,p´-DDT and the risk of breast cancer. Relatively little, however, is known about its potentially adverse reproductive effects. A recent US study of serum obtained from a cohort several decades ago, reported that the risk of preterm birth increased steadily with increasing concentrations of p,p´ – DDE, the most persistent of the p,p´ – DDT metabolites. Although p,p´ – DDT was banned in many industrialized countries during the 1970s, it is still being utilized in many malaria-endemic regions around the world.

We performed a case-cohort study of the associations of serum levels of p,p´-DDE and two other persistent organochlorine pesticides, ß-HCH and HCB, in relation to preterm birth in 233 pregnant women in Mexico City. The mothers were recruited at three large maternity hospitals in Mexico City during 1995. Serum levels were obtained shortly after delivery. A non-significant increased risk of preterm birth in relation to serum p,p’-DDE levels was observed. There was also a suggestion of an increased risk of preterm birth among women in the highest tertile of ß-HCH (adjusted odds ratio 1.85, 95%CI=0.94-3.66, p value for test of trend p=0.08) compared with the lowest tertile. No association was found between HCB serum levels and preterm births.

These findings suggest that p,p´-DDT and other organochlorine pesticides may pose a risk of preterm birth in countries that continue to use such insecticides for malaria control.

Partial Bibliography

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;104:584-588.

Hart MM, Adamson H, Fabro S. Prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation induced by DDT in the rabbit. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther 1971;192:286-290.

De Long R, Gilmartin WG, Simpson JG. Premature births in California sea lions:association with high organochlorines pollutant residue levels. Science 1973;181:1168-1170.

Salama AK, Bakry NM, Abou-Donia MB. A review article on placental transfer of pesticides. J of Occup Med Toxicol 1993;2(4):383-397.

O’leary JA, Davies JE, Feldman M. Spontaneous abortion and human pesticide residues of DDT and DDE. Am J Obstet Gynec 1970;December 15:1291-1292.

Saxena MC, Siddiqui MKJ, Seth TD. Organochlorine pesticides in specimens from women undergoing spontaneous abortion, premature of full-term delivery. J Anal Toxicol 1981;5:6-9.

Procianoy R, Schvartsman S. Blood pesticide concentrations in mothers and their newborn infants. Acta Paediatr Scand 1981;70:925-928.

Wasserman M, Ron M, Bercovici B, Wasserman D, Cucos S and Pines Anatol. Premature Delivery and organochlorine Compounds: Polychlorinated Biphenyls and some organochlorine Insecticides. Environmental Research 1982;28:206-212.

Korrick S, Damokosh A, Chen C, Cho S, Altshul L, Xu X. Serum DDT and DDE levels and spontaneous abortion. Abstracts of the 33rd annual meeting Seattle, Washington, June 15-17. Am Journal of Epidemiol 2000;(s24).

Berkowitz GS, Lapinski RH, Wolff MS. The role of DDE and Polychlorinated Byphenyl levels in preterm birth. Archives of Environmental contamination and Toxicology 1996;30:139-141.

Longnecker M, Klebanoff MA, Zhou H, Brock JW. Association between maternal serum concentration of the DDT metabolite DDE and preterm and small-for-gestational-age babies at birth. Lancet 2001;358:110-114.