Longitudinal studies have shown that early life exposure to dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (DDE) can lead to growth reduction during childhood and adolescence. In addition, DDE exposure has been linked to respiratory tract infections and an increased risk of asthma in children. Our aim was to understand the relationships between DDE exposure and pulmonary function in children, and, particularly, whether associations are mediated by the height of the children. We used data from an environmental epidemiologic study conducted in central Germany in children aged 8-10 years. The pulmonary function (forced vital capacity, FVC, and forced expiratory volume in one second, FEV1) were measured in three consecutive years. Blood DDE levels were measured at 8 and 10 years. We used linear mixed models for repeated measurements and path analyses to assess the association between blood levels of DDE and pulmonary function measurements. All models were adjusted for confounders. Linear mixed approaches and modelling concurrent effects showed no significant associations. The path analytical models demonstrated that DDE measured at eight years had significant, inverse, indirect, and total effects on FVC at ten years (n
= 328; −0.18 L per μg/L of DDE) and FEV1 (n
= 328; −0.17 L per μg/L of DDE), mediated through effects of DDE on height and weight. The DDE burden reduces pulmonary function through its diminishing effects on height and weight in children. Further studies are required to test these associations in other samples, preferably from a region with ongoing, high DDT application.
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