Organochlorine and heavy metals in newborns: Results from the Flemish Environment and Health Survey (FLEHS 2002–2006)

To collect regional information on internal levels of pollutants in humans in Flanders, 1196 mother–child pairs were systematically recruited in 2002–2003 via 25 maternities across Flanders. Cd, Pb, PCB congeners 118, 170, 138, 153 and 180, p,p′-DDE — a key metabolite of DDT- and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) were measured in cord blood or plasma. Cd was detected in 64% of the samples (geometric mean 0.21 µg/L cord blood). p,p′-DDE (110 ng/g plasma lipids) and Pb (14.7 µg/L blood), were measurable in nearly all samples. The individual PCB congeners could be detected in 40 to 81% of the newborns (138 + 153 + 180 = 64.4 ng/g plasma lipids). HCB (18.9 ng/g plasma lipids) and dioxin-like compounds measured by DR-CALUX® (23 pg CALUX-TEQ/g lipids) were above detection limit in more than 75% of the samples. Age and smoking habits of the mothers, did not influence the cord blood Pb and Cd levels. The organochlorines increased 4 to 9% per year of the mother's age (partial R2 = 0.05 to 0.22). Mothers had 2.6% less PCBs in cord blood (partial R2 = 0.02) for each unit increase in pre-pregnancy BMI. Season of delivery, breastfeeding previous children or consumption of local dairy products, were minor determinants. Up to 20% of the variability in organochlorine concentrations was explained by residence area. It was concluded that the place of birth in Flanders is an important determinant of the load of pollutants measured at the start of life. This underlines the validity of human biomonitoring on (relatively) small geographical scale.