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PCBs and Dioxins

PCBs, dibenzofurans and dioxins are mixtures of many chlorinated aromatic compounds, some of which are very persistent both in the environment and in the body. There are over 75 chlorinated dioxins, 135 chlorinated dibenzofurans, and 209 PCB congeners. Since they are lipophilic, they dissolve in the fatty tissues of the body and are released slowly to the bloodstream. Some of the PCB congeners have been reported to have half-lives of elimination as long as 19 years in the body and 100 years in sub-surface soil. Unborn fetuses and neonates have developing nervous systems that are particularly sensitive to the actions of PCBs and dioxins in that the toxicants tend to disrupt synaptogenesis, the process which forms the neuronal network of the brain. Other health effects from exposure to these persistent toxicants include endocrine disruption, immunsuppression, developmental delays, thyroid problems, and cancers at multiple sites, including thyroid, lung, skin, soft tissue, and testes, among others.

Since PCBs are stored in the fatty tissue, they are in equilibrium with the fat cells which circulate in the blood and can be detected in the blood many years after exposure has ceased. In one study Dr. Parent conducted a survey of over 1,200 individuals living near a transformer plant, by sampling their blood and the dust in their homes. He related the concentration of PCBs in blood to the extent of current and future injury. This complex program involved working closely with the analytical laboratory to produce the most economical screening methodology which was followed by analysis of specific PCB and dioxin congeners that were consistent with the congener patterns emanating from the contaminated site. The case was settled on the basis of the blood analyses. A synopsis of PCB characteristics and health effects are available in the report provided below as well as selected references.

Selected References

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Ahlborg, U. G., Lipworth, L., Titus-Ernstoff, L. et al., Organochlorine compounds in relation to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and endometriosis:  an assessment of the biological and epidemiological evidence. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 25(6), 463-531 (1995).

Ahmad, S. U., Tariq, S., Jalali, S. and Ahmad, M. M., Environmental pollutant Aroclor 1242 (PCB) disrupts reproduction in adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Environmental Research, 93(3), 272-278 (2003).

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Allen, J. R. and Norback, D. H., Carcinogenic potential of the polychlorinated biphenyls. Origins of Human Cancer. Book A. Incidence of Cancer in Humans, Hiatt, H. H., Watson, J. D. and Winsten, J. A. (ed). Cold Spring Harbor Conferences on Cell Proliferation, Vol. 4, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 173-186 (1977).

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Bertazzi, P. A., Zacchetti, C. and Pesatori, A. C., Mortality of a young population after accidential exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. International Journal of Epidemiology, 21, 118-123 (1992).

Bertazzi, P. A., Zocchetti, C., Guercilena, S.,  Consonni, D., Tironi, A., Landi, M. T. and Pesatori, A. C., Dioxin exposure and cancer risk. A 15-year mortality study after the Seveso accident." Epidemiology, 8, 646-652 (1997).

Biggeri, A. and Catelan, D., [Mortality for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma in the surrounding area of an urban waste incinerator. Campi Bisenzio (Tuscany, Italy) 1981-2001. Epidemiologia & Prevenzione, 29(3-4), 156-159 (2005).

Birnbaum, L. S., Weber, H., Harris, M. W., Lamb, IV, J. C. and McKinney, J. D., Toxic interaction of specific polychlorinated biphenyls and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin: increased incidence of cleft palate in mice. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 77(2), 292-302 (1985).

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Boersma, E. R. and Lanting, C. I., Environmental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins. Consequences for longterm neurological and cognitive development of the child lactation. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 478, 271-287 (2000).

Bosetti, C., Negri, E., Fattore, E. and La Vecchia, C., Occupational exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 12(4), 251-255 (2003).

Bove, F. J., Slade, B. A. and Canady, R. A., Evidence of excess cancer mortality in a cohort of workers exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 41(9), 739-740 (1999).

Brouwer, A., Longnecker, M. P., Birnbaum, L. S., Cogliano, J., Kostyniak, P., Moore, J., Schantz, S. and Winneke, G., Characterization of potential endocrine-related health effects at low-dose levels of exposure to PCBs. Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(Suppl 4), 639-649 (1999).

Brown, D. P., Mortality of workers exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls:  An update. Archives of Environmental Health, 42, 333-339 (1987).

Buck, G. M., Epidemiologic perspective of the developmental neurotoxicity of PCBs in humans. Neurotoxicology Teratology, 18(3), 239-241 (1996).

Buck Louis, G. M., Weiner, J. M., Whitcomb, B. W., Sperrazza, R., Schisterman, E. F., Lobdell, D. T., Crickard, K., Greizerstein, H. and Kostyniak, P. J., Environmental PCB exposure and risk of endometriosis. Human Reproduction, 20(1), 279-285 (2005).

Burton, J. E., Michalek, J. E. and Rahe, A. J., Serum dioxin, chloracne, and acne in veterans of Operation Ranch Hand. Archives of Environmental Health, 53(3), 199-204 (1998).

Byrne, J. J., Carbone, J. P. and Hanson, E. A., Hypothyroidism and abnormalities in the kinetics of thyroid hormone metabolism in rats treated chronically with polychlorinated biphenyl and polybrominated biphenyl. Endocrinology, 121, 520-527 (1987).

Chang, K. J., Hseih, K. H., Tang, S. Y. and Lee, T. P., Immunologic evaluation of patients with polychlorinated biphenyl poisoning: evaluation of delayed-type skin hypersensitive response and its relationship to clinical studies. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 9, 217-223 (1982).

Chang, K. J., Hsieh, K. H., Lee, T. P., Tang, S. Y. and Tung, T. C., Immunologic evaluation of patients with PCB poisoning: Determination of lymphocyte subpopulations. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 61, 58-63 (1981).

Charlier, C., Pitance, F. and Plomteux, G., PCB residues in a breast cancer patient population. Bull. Environmental Contam. Toxicology, 71(5), 887-891 (2003).

Chase, K. H. and Shields, P. G., Medical surveillance of hazardous waste site workers exposed to polycworinated biphenyls. Occupational Medicine, 5, 33-37 (1990).

Cheek, A. O., Kow, K., Chen, J. and McLachlan, J. A., Potential mechanisms of thyroid disruption in humans: interaction of organochlorine compounds with thyroid receptor, transthyretin, and thyroid-binding globulin. Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(4), 273-278 (1999).

Chen, Y. C., Guo, Y. L., Hsu, C. C. and Rogan, W. J., Cognitive development of Yu-Cheng ("oil disease") children prenatally exposed to heat-degraded PCBs. Journal of the American Medical Association, 268(22), 3213-3218 (1992).

Chen, Y. C. J., Yu, M. L. M., Rogan, W. J., et al., A 6-year follow-up of behavior and activity disorders in the Taiwan Yu-chen children. American Journal of Public Health, 84(3), 415-421 (1994).

Chen, Y. J. and Hsu, C. C., Effects of prenatal exposure to PCBs on the neurological function of children: a neuropsychological and neurophysiological study. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 36(4), 312-320 (1994).

Cogliano, V. J., Assessing the cancer risk from environmental PCBs. Environmental Health Perspectives, 106(6), 317-323 (1998).

Colborn, T., vom Saal, F. S. and Soto, A. M., Developmental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in wildlife and humans. Environmental Health Perspectives, 101(5), 378-384 (1993).

Cole, P., Trichopoulos, D., Pastides, H., Starr, T. and Mandel, J. S., Dioxin and cancer: a critical review. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 38(3), 378-388 (2003).

Cole, P., Trichopoulos, D., Pastides, H., Starr, T. and Mandel, J. S., Dioxin and cancer:
a critical review. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 38(3), 378-388 (2003).

Conolly, R. B., U.S. EPA reassessment of the Health Risks of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology Activities, 14(12), 1-9 (1994).

Cook, R. R., Dioxin, chloracne, and soft-tissue sarcoma. Lancet, 1, 618-619 (1981).

Cook, R. R., Townsend, J. C., Ott, M. G. and Silverstein, L. G., Mortality experience of
employees exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Journal of Occupational Medicine, 22(8), 530-532 (1980).

Dalager, N. A., Kang, H. K., Burt, V. and Weatherbee, L., Non-Hodgkins lymphoma among Vietnam veterans. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 33(7), 774-779 (1991).

Emmett, E. A., PCB exposure and effects in transformer repair workers. Environmental Health Perspectives, 60, 185-192 (1985).

Eriksson, M. and Hardell, A. H., Exposure to dioxins as a risk factor for soft tissue sarcoma: a population-based case-control study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 82, 486-490 (1990).

Eriksson, P., Viberg, H., Jakobsson, E., Orn, U. and Fredriksson, A., A brominated flame retardant, 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether: uptake, retention, and induction of neurobehavioral alterations in mice during a critical phase of neonatal brain development. Toxicological Sciences, 67, 98-103 (2002).

Feeley, M. and Brouwer, A., Health risks to infants from exposure to PCBs, PCDDs and PCDFs. Food Additives and Contaminants, 17(4), 325-333 (2000).

Fischbein, A., Wolff, M. S., Lilis, R., Thornton, J. and Selikoff, I. J., Clinical findings among PCB-exposed capacitor manufacturing workers. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 320, 703-715 (1979).

Grandjean, P., Weihe, P., Burse, V. W., Needham, L. L., Storr-Hansen, E., Heinzow, B.,
Debes, F., Murata, K., Simonsen, H., Ellefsen, P., Budtz-Jorgensen, E., Keiding, N. and White, R. F., Neurobehavioral deficits associated with PCB in 7-year-old children prenatally exposed to seafood neurotoxicants. Neurotoxicology Teratology, 23(4), 305-317 (2001).

Gray, Jr., L. E., Ostby, J., Marshall, R. and Andrews, J., Reproductive and thyroid effects of low-level polychlorinated biphenyl (aroclor 1254) exposure. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology, 20(3), 288-294 (1993).

Hara, I., Health status and PCBs in blood of workers exposed to PCBs and of their children. Environmental Health Perspectives, 59, 85-90 (1985).

Hatch, M. C. and Stein, Z. A., Agent orange and risks to reproduction: the limits of epidemiology. Teratogenesis Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis, 6(3), 185-202 (1986).

Hong, R., Taylor, K. and Abonour, R., Immune abnormalities associated with chronic TCDD exposure in rhesus. Chemosphere, 18, 313-320 (1989).

Jacobson, J. L. and Jacobson, S. W., Evidence for PCBs as neurodevelopmental toxicants in humans. Neurotoxicology, 18(2), 415-424 (1997).

Jacobson, J. L., Jacobson, S. W. and Humphrey, H. E., Effects of in utero exposure to  polychlorinated biphenyls and related contaminants on cognitive functioning in young children.  Journal of Pediatrics, 116(1), 38-45 (1990).

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Mastroiacova, P., Spangnolo, A., Marni, E., Mezza, L., Bertollini, R. and Segni, G., Birth defects in the Seveso area after TCDD contamination. Journal of the American Medical Association, 259(11), 1668-1672 (1988).

Neubert, D., Zens, P., Rothenwaller, A. and Merker, H. J., A survey of the embryotoxic effects of TCDD in mammalian species. Environmental Health Perspectives, 5, 67-79 (1973).

Ogura, I., Half-life of each dioxin and PCB congener in the human body. Organohalogen Compounds, 66, 3376-3384 (2004).

Patandin, S., Neurotoxic effects in preschool children exposed to background levels of PCBs and dioxins. Neurotoxicology, 21(1-2), 244-245 (2000).

Schantz, S. L., Widholm, J. J. and Rice, D. C., Effects of PCB exposure on neuropsychological function in children. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(3), 357-376 (2003).

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Shiraishi, F., Okumura, T., Nomachi, M., Serizawa, S., Nishikawa, J., Edmonds, J. S.,
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Wingren, G., Fredriksson, M., Noorlind Brage, H., Nordenskjold, B. and Axelson, O., Soft-tissue sarcoma and occupational exposures. Cancer, 66(4), 806-811 (1990).

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Zheng, T., Holford, T. R., Tessari, J., Mayne, S. T., Owens, P. H., Ward, B., Carter, D., Boyle, P., Dubrow, R., Archibeque-Engle, S. and Zahm, S. H., Breast cancer risk associated with congeners of polychlorinated biphenyls. American Journal of Epidemiology, 152(1), 50-58 (2000).

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