Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity in relation to serum dioxin concentrations: The Seveso Women's Health Study

Marcella Warner, Paolo Mocarelli, Paolo Brambilla, Amelia Wesselink, Steven Samuels, Stefano Signorini, Brenda Eskenazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In animal studies, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) alters glucose transport and increases serum lipid levels and blood pressure. Epidemiologic evidence suggests an association between TCDD and metabolic disease. Objectives: On 10 July 1976, a chemical explosion in Seveso, Italy, resulted in the highest known residential exposure to TCDD. Using data from the Seveso Women's Health Study (SWHS), a cohort study of the health of the women, we examined the relation of serum TCDD to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity > 30 years later. Methods: In 1996, we enrolled 981 women who were newborn to 40 years of age in 1976 and resided in the most contaminated areas. Individual TCDD concentration was measured in archived serum that had been collected soon after the explosion. In 2008, 833 women participated in a follow-up study. Diabetes was classified based on self-report or fasting serum glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels. Metabolic syndrome was defined by International Diabetes Federation criteria. Obesity was defined as body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2. Results: A 10-fold increase in serum TCDD (log10TCDD) was not associated with diabetes (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.76; 95% CI: 0.45, 1.28) or obesity [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.80; 95% CI: 0.58, 1.10]. Log10TCDD was associated with metabolic syndrome, but only among women who were ≤ 12 years of age at the time of the explosion (adjusted OR = 2.03; 95% CI: 1.25, 3.29; pinteraction = 0.01). Conclusions: We found an increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome associated with TCDD, but only among women who were the youngest at the time of the explosion. Continued follow-up of the SWHS cohort will be informative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-911
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Diabetes
  • Dioxin
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Seveso
  • TCDD
  • Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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