Accumulation of organophosphorus pollutants in adipose tissue of obese women - metabolic alterations

Sara Sousa, Diana Rede, Virgínia Cruz Fernandes, Diogo Pestana, Gil Faria, Cristina Delerue-Matos, Conceição Calhau, Valentina Fernandes Domingues

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Organophosphorus pesticides (OPPs) and organophosphate esters (OPEs) are organophosphorus compounds created as substitutes for persistent environmental pollutants, namely organochlorines pesticides and brominated flame retardants, respectively. However, there is evidence that organophosphorus compounds are also widespread across the environment and have adverse effects on biota. In humans, OPPs and OPEs were reported to be carcinogenic, neurotoxic, hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic, amongst others. As lipophilic compounds, these accumulate in fat tissues as adipose tissue. Yet biomonitoring studies and analytical methodologies to assess these compounds in the human body are scarce, particularly in adipose tissue. In this study, the presence of six OPPs and seven OPEs was determined in samples of subcutaneous adipose tissue (scAT) and visceral adipose tissue (vAT) from 188 adult obese women. OPPs and OPEs were quantified by gas chromatography (GC) flame photometric detection and confirmed in GC tandem mass spectrometry. The detection frequencies ranged between 0.5-1.6% and 48–53%, respectively for OPPs and OPEs. Organophosphorus pollutants were present in both adipose tissues and median concentrations were 0.008 ± 0.020 μg/g scAT and 0.009 ± 0.020 μg/g vAT. A total of 32 Spearman's correlations were found between organophosphorus pollutants concentrations in adipose tissue and several biochemical parameters (18 positive and 14 negative). Our results show that anthropometric and hormonal parameters, cholesterol, glycaemia, macrominerals, urea and sedimentation velocity might be influenced by the presence of these compounds. The presence of organophosphorus pollutants in the environmental and their possible effect on female metabolic processes is concerning. Particularly because presently OPEs usage is not controlled or limited by any regulation. More studies are needed to fully understand these pollutants behaviour and hazard effects on human health, biota, and the environment so control regulations can be drawn to prevent and lessen their effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117337
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2023


  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Organophosphate esters
  • Organophosphorus pesticides
  • Women


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