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Associations of Maternal Exposure to Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and Pyrethroids With Birth Outcomes Among Participants in the Venda Health Examination of Mothers, Babies and Their Environment Residing in an Area Sprayed for Malaria Control


Although effective in controlling malaria, indoor residual spraying results in elevated exposure to insecticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and pyrethroids. These chemicals cross the placenta, but no studies have examined their associations with birth outcomes in populations residing in indoor residual spraying areas. We investigated this question in the Venda Health Examination of Mothers, Babies and Their Environment (VHEMBE), a birth cohort study of 751 South African children born between 2012 and 2013. We measured maternal peripartum serum DDT and urine pyrethroid metabolite concentrations and collected data on birth weight, length, head circumference, and duration of gestation. We analyzed the data using marginal structural models with inverse-probability-of-treatment weights, generalized propensity scores, and standard conditional linear regression. Using all 3 analytical methods, p,p'-DDT, o,p'-DDT, and to a lesser extent p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene were related to elevated birth weight, birth length, and head circumference among girls. Changes in gestational duration did not mediate this relationship, suggesting that these exposures accelerate fetal growth, which is consistent with the known estrogenic properties of o,p'-DDT and p,p'-DDT. No associations with pyrethroid metabolites were found. Results suggest that prenatal exposure to DDT is related to elevated birth size. Further studies are needed to elucidate the implications of these findings.

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