PCBs and Human Health

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are considered “persistent organic pollutants;” fat-soluble compounds that bioaccumulate in individuals and biomagnify in the food chain. PCBs were the first industrial compounds to experience a world-wide ban on production because of their potent toxicity. PCB bioaccumulation can lead to reduced infection fighting ability, increased rates of autoimmunity, cognitive and behavioral problems, and hypothyroidism.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a category of industrial chemicals historically used as coolants or heat transfer agents in electrical transformers. They have also been used in microscope immersion oils, carbonless copy paper, cutting oils, and as an inert ingredient in pesticides.


Production of PCBs in the United States ceased in 1979 because of findings that these compounds were accumulating in the environment and were being associated with severe health problems.


Some consumer products made before 1977, including old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical devices, or appliances containing PCB capacitors, may still contain PCBs and can be a source of exogenous exposure. Widespread use, large-scale environmental contamination events (spills), and slow biodegradation, all combine to make PCBs a ubiquitous environmental contaminant.


34 of the 38 PCBs were found in virtually all persons tested.


Potential Adverse Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Humans


Immune System


Testing indicates that PCBs are potent inducers of cell death for monocytes and thymocytes.


Apoptosis of thymocytes appears to be secondary to mitochondrial damage by PCBs. Increased apoptosis of monocytes and thymocytes results in lower numbers of white blood cells (WBCs) to initiate an immunological defense. In order to determine if dietary intake of PCBs leads to immunological problems, mice were fed diets with either PCB-contaminated whale blubber or beef fat that was not contaminated with PCBs.


Because PCBs can cause more serious health problems in the case of in uteroexposure, it is highly recommended women be tested for these compounds before trying to conceive. If levels are high, exposure reduction and toxin elimination can commence prior to conception.


PCBs – How to Protect Your Family.wmv

PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until their ban in 1979 and were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications. PCBs have been dem…