Dietary Exposures to Persistent Organic Pollutants and Fetal Growth

  • Thorhallur Ingi Halldorsson


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a class of man-made organohalogen compounds that have been released into the environment on an industrial scale since the yearly 20th century and include flame retardants such as the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and the dioxins. Due to their extreme thermodynamic stability and lipophilic nature, these compounds are highly persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate up the food chain. Dietary intakes, particularly foods of animal origin, have been estimated to account for more than 90% of human exposures. With respect to different foods, oily fish have by far the highest contaminant levels, and fish intake has been estimated to account for between 25 and 80% of total dietary exposure. Despite considerable reduction in environmental levels of POPs compared to peak values, adverse health effects are still being reported in the general population, particularly among vulnerable sub-groups such as infants and children. Although the chemical structure of different classes of pollutants differs, one of their toxic modes of action is disruption of the physiologic function of the endogenous hormones. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that prenatal exposure to POPs can affect fetal growth. However, due to time-dependent changes in contaminant levels and major differences in exposure patterns between different regions, consistent results are not always reported in epidemiological studies. The aim of this chapter is to go through some of the evidence linking parental exposures to POPs with reduced fetal growth and discuss the main sources of human exposure.


Fetal Growth Persistent Organic Pollutant Organochlorine Pesticide Contaminant Level Fish Intake 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.









Polychlorinated biphenyls


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins


Polychlorinated dibenzofurans


Perfluorinated chemicals


Perfluorooctanoic acid


Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid


Persistent organic pollutants


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Food Science and NutritionUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  2. 2.Unit for Nutrition ResearchLandspitali-University HospitalReykjavikIceland
  3. 3.Maternal Nutrition Group, Division of EpidemiologyStatens Serum InstitutCopenhagenDenmark

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