Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in human adipose tissue from northern Tunisia: Current extent of contamination and contributions of socio-demographic characteristics and dietary habits

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The aims of the present study were to investigate the current exposure levels of persistent organochlorine compounds (OCs) in adipose tissues intraoperatively collected from 40 patients over 20 years undergoing non-cancer-related surgery residing in Northern region of Tunisia (Bizerte), which constitutes an exemplary case, and examined association between levels of contamination and both socio-demographic characteristics and dietary habits. Concentration of hexachlorobenzene (HCB), hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (α-HCH, β-HCH, γ-HCH and δ-HCH), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane isomers (p,p′-DDT and o,p′-DDT) and metabolites (p,p′-DDE, o,p′-DDE, p,p′-DDD and o,p′-DDD) and 12 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) congeners were measured using capillary gas chromatography with electron capture detector. Overall, residue levels of OCs followed the decreasing order of DDTs > PCBs > HCB > HCHs. DDTs levels ranged from 74.49 to 1834.76 ng g−1 lipid and contributing to more than 90% to the sum of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). p,p′-DDE was the most abundant in all samples and the p,p′-DDT/p,p′-DDE ratio (range between 1.85% and 58.45%) suggesting recent and ongoing exposure to banned commercial DDT products. PCB concentrations varied from 29.27 to 322.58 ng g−1 lipid and PCB-180, PCB-153 and PCB-138 were the dominant congeners accounting for 70% of total PCBs. We did not find significant correlations between OC exposure levels and sex, parity, habitat areas and smoking habits. In females, the adipose tissue concentrations of DDTs, HCB and PCB-118 were positively correlated with age. There was statistically significant relationship between body mass index (BMI) changes and the adipose tissue levels of HCB and HCHs. No association was found between OCPs levels and dietary factors. However, our study suggests that fish consumption may be an important contributor of PCBs adipose tissue content of PCBs in Tunisian people. The presented work is highly significant, being the first study pointing out the chronic exposure to OCs in Bizerte.

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