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Long-term effects on humoral immunity among workers exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)
  1. Fatemeh Saberi Hosnijeh1,2,
  2. Daisy Boers1,
  3. Lützen Portengen1,
  4. H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita3,
  5. Dick Heederik1,4,
  6. Roel Vermeulen1,4
  1. 1Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  2. 2Zanjan University of Medical Science, Zanjan, Iran
  3. 3The National Institute for Public Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  4. 4Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Roel Vermeulen, Utrecht University, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, PO Box 80178, 3508 TD, Utrecht, The Netherlands; r.c.h.vermeulen{at}


Objectives Epidemiological studies have shown inconsistent effects on immunological parameters in subjects exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). In this study we investigated changes in humoral immunity and prevalence of atopic diseases among workers from a Dutch historical cohort occupationally exposed to chlorophenoxy herbicides and contaminants including TCDD.

Methods 45 workers who had been exposed to high levels of TCDD in the past and 108 non-exposed workers (39 from the same factory as the exposed subjects (internal control group) and 69 from a comparable factory but without TCDD exposure (external control group)) were included in the study. Blood immunoglobulin (Ig) and complement factor (C) concentrations and specific IgE antibodies to a panel of common allergens were measured using quantitative nephelometry or ELISA. TCDD plasma levels were measured and back-extrapolated to the time of last exposure (TCDDmax) using a one-compartment first order kinetic model.

Results A borderline significant negative association between both current and predicted TCDD levels and C4 was found in multivariate analyses (β=−0.020; 95% CI=−0.040–0.010 and β=−0.020; 95% CI=−0.030–0.00, respectively). History of eczema was significantly associated with current TCDD levels in both crude (OR=1.5; 95% CI=1.03−2.2) and adjusted models (OR=1.7; 95% CI=1.08−2.7).

Conclusions Our results do not support an association between TCDD exposure and markers of humoral immunity except possibly C4. Interestingly, decreased levels of C4 have been linked to lymphoma risk, which provides some support to the putative link between TCDD and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Dioxin
  • immune system
  • immunoglobulin
  • complement factors
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • epidemiology
  • immunology
  • cancer
  • dioxins

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Medical Ethics Committee of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.