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Since the 1930s, synthetic pesticide production has exponentially increased and at that time many experts predicted correctly that cancer rates would also rise.


Since then billions of tons of toxic substances that didn't previously
exist have been released into the environment, yet only about 3% of the 75,000 chemicals used today have been tested for safety. A large body of scientific evidence suggests that exposure to synthetic toxic chemicals in the environment is contributing to high cancer rates and degenerative diseases. One of the most hazardous and pervasive of the environmental toxic chemicals found in our water, air, and soil is organochlorines. 


The cheap availability of chlorine gas, together with the development of industrial chlorinating procedures in the 20th century, led to the production of a wide range of organochlorine compounds. Many utilized for a variety of commercial applications including insecticides, 

defoliants and polychlorinated biphenyls, (PCBs) whicha are used as coolants in electricity supply transformers.  However, it was soon found that many of these chemicals suffered from a major disadvantage in that they resisted biodegradation, and that the continued use of these compounds would lead to their persistence and accumulation in the environment, thus entering the human food chain. As with all xenobiotics, the toxicity of the organochlorines is related to their absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination.


Most organochlorines have been delivered to the world as chlorinated insecticides.

Organochlorine insecticides are classified into three subgroups: 

  • dichlorodiphenylethanes (DDT, dicofol, methoxychlor, and perthane)

  • chlorinated cyclodienes (aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, chlordane, endosulfan, and heptachlor

  • hexachlorocyclohexanes (BHC, chlordane, lindane, mirex, and toxaphene)


Some of the more extensively used organochlorine insecticides are DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), and the polyvinylchlorides (PCVs) - dioxin, aldrin, dieldrin, and atrazine. Polychlorinated biphenyls were also once commonly used electrical insulators and heat transfer agents. Their use has generally been phased out due to health concerns. PCBs were replaced by polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which bring similar toxicity and bioaccumulation concerns.


These chlorinated insecticides are used for the control of a wide range of insects. Organochlorines are not only used extensively as insecticides, but also as detergents, spermicidal foam, paper, lubricants, and plastics. In general, organochlorine insecticides are neurotoxicants and act as nervous system disruptors leading to convulsions and paralysis of the insect and its eventual death. Because of their known environmental toxicity and potential carcinogenicity, the countries that still use organochlorine insecticides are under tremendous pressure to cease use completely. 


For several decades, science has reported that organochlorines become concentrated in animal and human fat tissue. Thus, they can be absorbed orally and topically, with absorption being rapid due to the lipid solubility of these compounds. In terms of human health, organochlorines present in the environment have been shown to cause a range of complications, including birth defects, cognitive and neurological impairment and cancer. Among the several hundred organochlorines that have undergone toxicological testing to date, all  have been found to cause one or more of a wide variety of adverse health effects, often at very low doses. Many organochlorines are endocrine disrupters that can mimic or otherwise interfere with hormone action, raising the possibility of severe long-term effects on reproduction, development and behavior.


Organochlorines are compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, and hydrogen.  Their chlorine-carbon bonds are very strong which means that they do not break down easily.  They are highly insoluble in water, but are attracted to fats. They have a long-term residual effect in the environment since they are resistant to most chemical and microbial degradations. Because organochlorines are very stable compounds that are easily solubilized in fats,and insoluble in water, they remain in the environment creating a prolonged and continuous threat to the ecosystem. The chemical chemical half-life is 7-30 years, resulting in long-term persistence in the body. 


As environmental pollutants, organochlorines are now prevalent. According to Greenpeace, thirteen tons of chlorine is produced in North America every year. 1% is used to chlorinate drinking water, while the rest is used to produce plastics, to bleach paper products, and serve other functions in the industrial and agricultural industries. 


Another major threat to the environment is the contamination of surface water due to organochlorine insecticide sprays. This surface water not only seeps through the ground, but is also dispersed, eventually reaching reservoirs such as lakes, rivers and oceans. Organochlorines can spread far from their originating point. Some studies have reported organochlorine contamination in the Arctic and Antarctic at very high levels. They easily bioaccumulate in biota. Passing through the food chain levels, they increase their concentrations (biomagnifying). With this long-term environmental contamination, organochlorine insecticides affect animals such as marine life, beneficial insects, and birds. Contaminated food and water from organochlorines are the primary way they enter the human body. Generally, they display their effects after a relatively long period of exposure. Organochlorines have been found in human tissue due to their inefficient metabolism and their solubility in lipids, which lead to lifelong sequestration in adipose tissue, such as the breast. 


Their massive introduction into the international chemical industry began after World War II. DDT, for example, was introduced in 1943 by the U.S. as a pesticide for the military's anti-malarial campaigns, and widespread civilian use began two years later after the end of the war. DDT is an insecticide because it inhibits neuronal repolarization. Manifestations of DDT poisoning in humans arise by the same mechanism. Symptoms of poisoning include perioral and lingual paresthesia, apprehension, hypersensitivity to stimuli, irritability, dizziness, vertigo, tremor, and convulsions. 


Dioxins are formed by the incineration of products containing PVC, PCBs, and other chlorinated compounds by industrial processes that use chlorine and by the combustion of diesel and gasoline. Dioxins are known human carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. One of the dioxins (2,3,7,8-tetra chlorodibenzo-para-dioxin—TCDD) has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a known human carcinogen. In 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially declared TCDD to be a known carcinogen. What dioxins have in common is that they collect in the body fat of humans and other animals and stay there for a very long time. The most recent data in studies of a cross-section of Americans indicate that over 95 percent have measurable levels of dioxins in their bodies, and that older people have statistically higher body burdens of the chemicals than younger people. Even worse, they are directly toxic to the brain even at low levels of exposure and have been linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.  


From the 1950s until 1970, the pesticides dieldrin and aldrin (which breaks down to dieldrin, the active ingredient) were widely used on crops, including corn and cotton. Dieldrin has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor, both by stimulating estrogen-regulated systems and by interfering with androgen-regulated pathways. In 1975, the U.S. EPA banned all uses of aldrin and dieldrin except for termite control, because of the concerns about damage to the environment and human health. Later, in 1987, the EPA banned these pesticides altogether. However, many are still being used in other countries today. Despite regulatory bands or strict limits on usage being imposed on organochlorine pesticides in most countries since the 1970s, residues persist in soil and rivers resulting in a widespread contamination of the eco-system including marine life.  


It is an unfortunate fact that much of the cancer research currently going on is funded by the very same chemical companies that are filling the world environment with organochlorine pollution. 

The following are selected studies on the health effects of organochlorines and highlight the need for chemical detoxification in high risk exposed individuals.


Toxicity Overview


Alavanja, Michael CR, Jane A. Hoppin, and Freya Kamel. "Health effects of chronic pesticide exposure: cancer and neurotoxicity." Annu. Rev. Public Health 25 (2004): 155-197.

Androutsopoulos, Vasilis P., Antonio F. Hernandez, Jyrki Liesivuori, and Aristidis M. Tsatsakis. "A mechanistic overview of health associated effects of low levels of organochlorine and organophosphorous pesticides." Toxicology 307 (2013): 89-94.

Dewailly, Éric, Gert Mulvad, Henning S. Pedersen, Pierre Ayotte, Alain Demers, Jean-Philippe Weber, and Jens C. Hansen. "Concentration of organochlorines in human brain, liver, and adipose tissue autopsy samples from Greenland." Environmental health perspectives 107, no. 10 (1999): 823-828.

Ditraglia, David, David P. Brown, Tsukasa Namekata, and Norman Iverson. "Mortality study of workers employed at organochlorine pesticide manufacturing plants." Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health (1981): 140-146.


Longnecker, Matthew P., Walter J. Rogan, and George Lucier. "The human health effects of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and PCBS (polychlorinated biphenyls) and an overview of organochlorines in public health." Annual review of public health 18, no. 1 (1997): 211-244.

Marinković, Natalija, Daria Pašalić, Goran Ferenčak, Branka Gršković, and Ana Rukavina. "Dioxins and human toxicity." 

Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology 61, no. 4 (2010): 445-453.

Singh, Zorawar, Jasminder Kaur, Ravneet Kaur, and Swarndeep Singh Hundal. "Toxic effects of organochlorine pesticides: a review." Am. J. Biosci 4, no. 3-11 (2016): 11-18.

Smith, A. G., and S. D. Gangolli. "Organochlorine chemicals in seafood: occurrence and health concerns." Food and Chemical Toxicology 40, no. 6 (2002): 767-779.

Breast Cancer 

Aronson, Kristan J., Anthony B. Miller, Christy G. Woolcott, Ernest E. Sterns, David R. McCready, Lavina A. Lickley, Edward B. Fish et al. "Breast adipose tissue concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls and other organochlorines and breast cancer risk." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 9, no. 1 (2000): 55-63.

Bachelet, D., M-A. Verner, C. Guihenneuc-Jouyaux, Corinne Charlier, M. Charbonneau, S. Haddad, and P. Guenel. "Assessment of exposure to persistent organochlorine compounds in epidemiological studies on breast cancer: a literature review and perspectives for the CECILE study." Acta clinica Belgica 65, no. sup1 (2010): 49-57.

Calle, Eugenia E., Howard Frumkin, S. Jane Henley, David A. Savitz, and Michael J. Thun. "Organochlorines and breast cancer risk." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 52, no. 5 (2002): 301-309.


Charlier, Corinne, Adelin Albert, Philippe Herman, Etienne Hamoir, Ulysse Gaspard, Michel Meurisse, and Guy Plomteux. "Breast cancer and serum organochlorine residues." 

Occupational and Environmental Medicine 60, no. 5 (2003): 348-351.

Demers, Alain, Pierre Ayotte, Jacques Brisson, Sylvie Dodin, Jean Robert, and Eric Dewailly. "Risk and aggressiveness of breast cancer in relation to plasma organochlorine concentrations." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 9, no. 2 (2000): 161-166.

Gammon, Marilie D., Mary S. Wolff, Alfred I. Neugut, Sybil M. Eng, Susan L. Teitelbaum, Julie A. Britton, Mary Beth Terry et al. "Environmental toxins and breast cancer on Long Island. II. Organochlorine compound levels in blood." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 11, no. 8 (2002): 686-697.


Laden, Francine, Gwen Collman, Kumiko Iwamoto, Anthony J. Alberg, Gertrud S. Berkowitz, Jo L. Freudenheim, Susan E. Hankinson et al. "1, 1-Dichloro-2, 2-bis (p-chlorophenyl) ethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls and breast cancer: combined analysis of five US studies." Journal of the National Cancer Institute 93, no. 10 (2001): 768-775.

Laden, Francine, Susan E. Hankinson, Mary S. Wolff, Graham A. Colditz, Walter C. Willett, Frank E. Speizer, and David J. Hunter. "Plasma organochlorine levels and the risk of breast cancer: An extended follow‐up in the Nurses' Health Study." International journal of cancer 91, no. 4 (2001): 568-574.

López-Cervantes, Malaquías, Luisa Torres-Sánchez, Aurelio Tobías, and Lizbeth López-Carrillo.

"Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane burden and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis of the epidemiologic evidence." 

Environmental Health Perspectives 112, no. 2 (2004): 207-214.

Moysich, Kirsten B., Peter G. Shields, Jo L. Freudenheim, Enrique F. Schisterman, John E. Vena, Paul Kostyniak, Hebe Greizerstein, James R. Marshall, Saxon Graham, and Christine B. Ambrosone. "Polychlorinated biphenyls, cytochrome P4501A1 polymorphism, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 8, no. 1 (1999): 41-44.

Payne, Joachim, Martin Scholze, and Andreas Kortenkamp. "Mixtures of four organochlorines enhance human breast cancer cell proliferation." Environmental Health Perspectives 109, no. 4 (2001): 391-397.

Snedeker, Suzanne M. "Pesticides and breast cancer risk: a review of DDT, DDE, and dieldrin." Environmental health perspectives 109, no. suppl 1 (2001): 35-47.

Verreault, Reni, Pierre Ayotte, Louise Sauvi, Jacques Morin, and Jacques Brisson. "High organochlorine body burden in women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer." Journal of the National Cancer Institute 86, no. 3 (1994).

Wolff, Mary S., Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, Neil Dubin, and Paolo Toniolo. "Risk of breast cancer and organochlorine exposure." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 9, no. 3 (2000): 271-277.

Cognitive Impairment - Alzheimer’s Disease


Kim, Se-A., Yu-Mi Lee, Ho-Won Lee, David R. Jacobs Jr, and Duk-Hee Lee. "Greater cognitive decline with aging among elders with high serum concentrations of organochlorine pesticides." PloS one 10, no. 6 (2015).

Kim, Ki-Su, Yu-Mi Lee, Ho-Won Lee, David R. Jacobs Jr, and Duk-Hee Lee. "Associations between organochlorine pesticides and cognition in US elders: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2002." Environment international 75 (2015): 87-92.

Singh, N. K., N. Chhillar, B. D. Banerjee, K. Bala, M. Basu, and Md Mustafa. "Organochlorine pesticide levels and risk of Alzheimer’s disease in north Indian population." Human & experimental toxicology 32, no. 1 (2013): 24-30.

Richardson, Jason R., Ananya Roy, Stuart L. Shalat, Richard T. Von Stein, Muhammad M. Hossain, Brian Buckley, Marla Gearing, Allan I. Levey, and Dwight C. German. "Elevated serum pesticide levels and risk for Alzheimer disease." JAMA neurology 71, no. 3 (2014): 284-290.

Zaganas, Ioannis, Stefania Kapetanaki, Vassileios Mastorodemos, Konstantinos Kanavouras, Claudio Colosio, Martin F. Wilks, and Aristidis M. Tsatsakis. "Linking pesticide exposure and dementia: what is the evidence?." 

Toxicology 307 (2013): 3-11.

Parkinson’s Disease


Sanchez-Ramos, Juan, A. Facca, A. Basit, and Shije Song. "Toxicity of dieldrin for dopaminergic neurons in mesencephalic cultures." Experimental neurology 150, no. 2 (1998): 263-271.


Richardson, Jason R., Ananya Roy, Stuart L. Shalat, Brian Buckley, Bozena Winnik, Marla Gearing, Allan I. Levey, Stewart A. Factor, Padraig O'Suilleabhain, and Dwight C. German. "β-Hexachlorocyclohexane levels in serum and risk of Parkinson's disease." Neurotoxicology 32, no. 5 (2011): 640-645.


Richardson, Jason R., Stuart L. Shalat, Brian Buckley, Bozena Winnik, Padraig O’Suilleabhain, Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, Joan Reisch, and Dwight C. German. "Elevated serum pesticide levels and risk of Parkinson disease." Archives of Neurology 66, no. 7 (2009): 870-875.

Weisskopf, M. G., P. Knekt, E. J. O'reilly, Jukka Lyytinen, A. Reunanen, F. Laden, L. Altshul, and A. Ascherio. "Persistent organochlorine pesticides in serum and risk of Parkinson disease." Neurology 74, no. 13 (2010): 1055-1061.

Reproductive Health – Birth Defects


Campoy, C., F. Olea-Serrano, M. Jiménez, R. Bayés, F. Cañabate, M. J. Rosales, E. Blanca, and N. Olea. "Diet and organochlorine contaminants in women of reproductive age under 40 years old." Early human development 65 (2001): S173-S182.

Kalra, Swati, Pooja Dewan, Prerna Batra, Tusha Sharma, Vipin Tyagi, and Basu Dev Banerjee. "Organochlorine pesticide exposure in mothers and neural tube defects in offsprings." 

Reproductive Toxicology 66 (2016): 56-60.

Michalakis, Michalis, Manolis N. Tzatzarakis, Leda Kovatsi, Athanasios K. Alegakis, Andreas K. Tsakalof, Ioannis Heretis, and Aristidis Tsatsakis. "Hypospadias in offspring is associated with chronic exposure of parents to organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides." Toxicology letters 230, no. 2 (2014): 139-145.

Ribas-Fitó, Núria, Beth C. Gladen, John W. Brock, Mark A. Klebanoff, and Matthew P. Longnecker. "Prenatal exposure to 1, 1-dichloro-2, 2-bis (p-chlorophenyl) ethylene (p, p′-DDE) in relation to child growth." International journal of epidemiology 35, no. 4 (2006): 853-858.

Toft, Gunnar, Lars Hagmar, Alexander Giwercman, and Jens Peter Bonde. "Epidemiological evidence on reproductive effects of persistent organochlorines in humans." Reproductive Toxicology 19, no. 1 (2004): 5-26.

Toft, Gunnar. "Persistent organochlorine pollutants and human reproductive health." Dan Med J 61, no. 11 (2014): B4967.

Vested, Anne, Aleksander Giwercman, Jens Peter Bonde, and Gunnar Toft. "Persistent organic pollutants and male reproductive health." Asian journal of andrology 16, no. 1 (2014): 71.

Waliszewski, Stefan M., Angel A. Aguirre, Rosa M. Infanzón, and José Siliceo. "Carry-over of persistent organochlorine pesticides through placenta to fetus." salud pública de méxico 42 (2000): 384-390.

Estrogen Effects


Salehi, Fariba, Michelle C. Turner, Karen P. Phillips, Donald T. Wigle, Daniel Krewski, and Kristan J. Aronson. "Review of the etiology of breast cancer with special attention to organochlorines as potential endocrine disruptors." Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 11, no. 3-4 (2008): 276-300.

Soto, Ana M., Kerrie L. Chung, and Carlos Sonnenschein. "The pesticides endosulfan, toxaphene, and dieldrin have estrogenic effects on human estrogen-sensitive cells." Environmental health perspectives 102, no. 4 (1994): 380-383.

Prostate Cancer


Hardell, Lennart, Swen-Olof Andersson, Michael Carlberg, Louise Bohr, Bert van Bavel, Gunilla Lindström, Helen Björnfoth, and Claes Ginman. "Adipose tissue concentrations of persistent organic pollutants and the risk of prostate cancer." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 48, no. 7 (2006): 700-707.

Van Maele-Fabry, Geneviève, Valérie Libotte, Jan Willems, and Dominique Lison. "Review and meta-analysis of risk estimates for prostate cancer in pesticide manufacturing workers." Cancer Causes & Control 17, no. 4 (2006): 353-373.

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