Polychlorinated biphenyl levels in the tissues of exposed and nonexposed humans

A. Schecter, J. Stanley, K. Boggess, Y. Masuda, J. Mes, M. Wolff, P. Furst, C. Furst, K. Wilson-Yang, B. Chisholm

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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic chemicals. manufactured in volume from about 1929 to the 1970s. Environmental contamination by PCBs has been documented in various substances, including human tissue. PCBs have been measured in human tissue by a variety of analytical methods. PCB levels have been reported as an approximation of total PCB content expressed in terms of a commercial mixture, by identification and quantification of chromatographic peaks, or by qualitative and quantitative characterization of specific congeners. Until recently, the coplanar mono-ortho- and di-ortho substituted PCBs, which are especially toxic and present in significant concentration in humans from industrial countries, had not been measured in human tissues. Examples of various types of commonly used analyses are presented in general population subjects and in persons who experienced special exposure. In this paper, the usefulness of PCB blood determinations following potential exposure is demonstrated, and their application in health studies is illustrated from a number of case studies. Coplanar PCB, mono-ortho-substitufed and di-ortho-substituted PCB levels in human blood are presented and compared with polychlorinated dioxin (PCDD) and polychlorinated dibenzofuran (PCDF) levels in the U.S. population. Dioxin toxic equivalents for the two groups of chemicals are calculated and compared. It is found that mono-ortho-substituted and, to a lesser extent, coplaner PCBs, contribute substantially to dioxin toxic equivalents (TEq) in blood from U.S. adults. Because of substantial PCB contribution to dioxin toxic equivalents, total dioxin like toxicity can only be determined if dioxins, dibenzofurans, and dioxin like PCBs are measured. At the present time, PCBs may contribute more dioxin like toxicity in human tissues than do dioxins and furans in human tissues from the general population in the United States, and probably for other industrialized countries as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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