We investigated whether organochlorine exposure is associated with the incidence of infectious diseases in Inuit infants from Nunavik (Arctic Quebec, Canada). We compiled the number of infectious disease episodes during the first year of life for 98 breast-fed and 73 bottle-fed infants. Concentrations of organochlorines were measured in early breast milk samples and used as surrogates to prenatal exposure levels. Immune system parameters were determined in venous blood samples collected from infants at 3, 7, and 12 months of age. Otitis media was the most frequent disease, with 80. 0% of breast-fed and 81.3% of bottle-fed infants experiencing at least one episode during the first year of life. During the second follow-up period, the risk of otitis media increased with prenatal exposure to p,p'-DDE, hexachlorobenzene, and dieldrin. The relative risk (RR) for 4- to 7-month-old infants in the highest tertile of p, p'-DDE exposure as compared to infants in the lowest tertile was 1. 87 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07-3.26]. The RR of otitis media over the entire first year of life also increased with prenatal exposure to p,p'-DDE (RR, 1.52; CI, 1.05-2.22) and hexachlorobenzene (RR, 1.49; CI, 1.10-2.03). Furthermore, the RR of recurrent otitis media ( [Greater/equal to] 3 episodes) increased with prenatal exposure to these compounds. No clinically relevant differences were noted between breast-fed and bottle-fed infants with regard to immunologic parameters, and prenatal organochlorine exposure was not associated with immunologic parameters. We conclude that prenatal organochlorine exposure could be a risk factor for acute otitis media in Inuit infants.