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Sexual precocity after immigration from developing countries to Belgium: evidence of previous exposure to organochlorine pesticides

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In a retrospective auxological study of 145 patients seen in Belgium during a 9‐year period for treatment of precocious puberty, 28% appeared to be foreign children (39 girls, one boy) who immigrated 4 to 5 years earlier from 22 developing countries, without any link to a particular ethnic or country background. The patients were either adopted (n = 28) or non‐adopted (n = 12), the latter having normal weight and height at immigration and starting early puberty without evidence of earlier deprivation. This led to the hypothesis that the mechanism of precocious puberty might involve previous exposure to oestrogenic endocrine disrupters. A toxicological plasma screening for eight pesticides detected p, p'‐DDE, which is derived from the organochlorine pesticide DDT. Median p, p'‐DDE concentrations were respectively 1.20 and 1.04 ng/ml in foreign adopted (n = 15) and non‐adopted (n = 11) girls with precocious puberty, while 13 out of 15 Belgian native girls with idiopathic or organic precocious puberty showed undetectable concentrations (<0.1 ng/ml). A possible relationship between transient exposure to endocrine disrupters and sexual precocity is suggested, and deserves further studies in immigrant children with non‐advanced puberty.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Toxicology, University of Liège, C.H.U. Sart Tilman, Liège, Belgium and Departments of Pediatrics, Universities of de Luxembourg 2: Departments of Pediatrics, Universities of Ghent 3: Departments of Pediatrics, Universities of Antwerp 4: Departments of Pediatrics, Universities of Brussels 5: Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, in collaboration with the Belgian Study Group for Pediatric Endocrinology

Publication date: 01 July 2001

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