Body burden of organohalogenated pollutants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Romanian population: Influence of age, gender, body mass index, and habitat
Persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs) are highly lipophilic and resistant to degradation, hence these substances are commonly found in the environment even decades after their prohibition. The aim of the present study was to determine human serum concentrations of POPs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the Romanian population, investigating the role of demographic variables on the body burden of such chemicals. A cross-sectional study including a total of 121 subjects from Brasov (Transylvania region) was designed. The concentration of 62 chemicals, including organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) and PAHs, was measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) in the serum of the participants. p,p'-DDE and β-HCH were detected in 100% and 62% of the series (median values = 2.1 and 0.5 μg/L); PCB-153 was detected in 77.7% of the subjects and PCB-28 showed the highest median concentration (0.5 μg/L); BDE-47 was detected at a low concentration in 11.6% of the individuals; phenanthrene and naphthalene were present in 98.3% and 38.8% of the serum samples (median values = 0.9 and 6.5 μg/L, respectively). Age was the main determinant of the total body burden of OCPs and PCBs. A positive correlation was observed between p,p'-DDE and age (Spearman Rho = 0.312, P < 0.0001), suggesting the prevalence of higher levels of pollutants at older ages. The present results showed a significant decrease in serum levels of p,p'-DDE and HCH in Romania -a country which has traditionally reported higher values than other Eastern European countries- as well as low levels of PCBs and BDEs. The presence of PAHs suggests an unknown source of exposure that deserves further investigation.