Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

PCBs are everywhere
by John Riehl for UI News
Iowa City IA (SPX) May 13, 2013

Researchers say an abundance of PCBs in the environment is having an impact on human health in both cities and rural areas. Photo provided by the UI Graduate College.

Since polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are produced through industrial processes or activities, it is assumed that people living in industrial cities will have higher concentrations of these toxic chemicals in their blood than people in rural communities.

Researchers at the University of Iowa say this isn't the case. In a paper published in March in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, scientists report that mothers and children in East Chicago, Ind., and Columbus Junction, Iowa, had only subtle differences in their PCB blood levels. This analytical paper is the first to report such a comparison between two communities, between mothers and children, and including all 209 PCB compounds.

"This is not good news, and it certainly applies to all of us," says Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering and senior author on the paper. "I thought it would be worse in a very industrial city than in a rural community. Our results really shook us up. We all have PCBs in our blood, and they are coming from somewhere. We don't make them in our bodies."

Study subjects from Indiana live in a highly industrialized community of 32,400 people that is bisected by the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. In contrast, Columbus Junction is a rural community of 1,899 with no known current or historical PCB sources.

Serum samples were collected from junior high school-aged students and their mothers who were enrolled in the Airborne Exposures to Semivolatile Organic Pollutants (AESOP) study between April 2008 and January 2009. The AESOP study is directed by Peter Thorne, professor of occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health and a project leader in the Iowa Superfund Research Program.

The serum analyzed was gathered from 41 mothers and their 44 children in East Chicago, and from 44 mothers and their 48 children in Columbus Junction. Researchers found a greater variety of PCBs in the blood of mothers and children in East Chicago. Despite the expectation of a large environmental exposure difference, East Chicago and Columbus Junction participants had similar concentrations of PCBs in their blood.

"We're looking for evidence of inhalation exposure. There are clearly big stores of PCBs in the environment," says Rachel Marek, doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering and first author on the paper. "How can we reduce of the overall level of PCBs in the environment and therefore reduce exposure to PCBs? We need to be able to identify those sources and clean them up."

PCBs can enter the human body by eating or drinking contaminated food, through the air we breathe, or by skin contact. Hornbuckle, however, doesn't know why participants in East Chicago and Columbus Junction have similar PCB concentrations in their blood.

"What is probably going on is that these two communities eat similar things, because their demographics are similar, and they breathe similar air with respect to the total amount of PCBs in the air," says Hornbuckle, a project leader in the Iowa Superfund Research Program who analyzes PCBs in blood and air.

Ninety-two individual PCB compounds were detected in the samples. Researchers report the detection of PCB 11 and PCB 83, which, to their knowledge, have not been found previously in human blood.

The researchers detected the neurotoxic PCB 11 in more than 60 percent of participants-more East Chicago mothers than Columbus Junction mothers. This finding helps verify that the environment is a significant source of PCB exposure. In particular, recent studies found that PCB 11 has been an inadvertent byproduct of paint production. The compound has been found in the air and in a wide variety of organic paint pigments from multiple manufacturers.

"PCBs are everywhere and they are really high in building materials, especially for homes that were built between 1950 and 1970. Both communities have similar housing materials," Hornbuckle says. "We also found that PCBs are in modern household paint, so it doesn't matter if you live in East Chicago or Columbus Junction."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause cancer, along with a variety of other adverse effects on the body's immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. For more information, visit

"These chemicals are known to be toxic to humans, and they are known to be toxic for developing humans, so we want them out," Hornbuckle says. "We don't want them in our paint. We don't want them in our indoor air. That's why there are fish consumption advisories on all the Great Lakes, because we don't want them in our food."

Contributing authors include Thorne; Kai Wang, associate professor of biostatistics; and Jeanne DeWall, research associate in occupational and environmental health.


Related Links
UI College of Engineering
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Nations agree to phase out toxic chemical HBCD
Geneva (AFP) May 10, 2013
Governments have agreed to phase out the use of the toxic chemical HBCD, and restrict trade in four other dangerous substances, the head of the UN's anti-pollution division said Friday. "Adding these chemicals to the list is a good thing, because they are known to be quite bad chemicals," Jim Willis, executive secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, told reporters as a t ... read more

Finding a sensible balance for natural hazard mitigation with mathematical models

Even Clinton couldn't get Led Zep to Sandy show

Brother admits defeat in tragic Bangladesh search

New York's Sandy lesson: evacuate and get boats

One order of steel; hold the greenhouse gases

Cloud computing is silver lining for Russian firms

Another 'trophy' for the chemistry cabinet

Researcher Construct Invisibility Cloak for Thermal Flow

New Robotic Instruments to Provide Real-Time Data on Gulf of Maine Red Tide

EU begins difficult talks on fishery reforms

Lockheed Martin Announces New System Available for Underwater Inspection

Ireland's Coveney vows to help break EU fisheries reform deadlock

Climate Record From Bottom of Russian Lake Shows Arctic Was Warmer Millions of Years Ago

Ice-free Arctic may be in our future

The effect of climate change on iceberg production by Greenland glaciers

Ice wall crashes into Canada cottages

KFC China sales crash 36% in April on bird flu fears

Slippery eel slides towards disaster

US Supreme Court finds for Monsanto in seed patent battle

KFC China sales crash 36% in April on bird flu fears

Risk of another Indian Ocean earthquake, tsunami said underestimated

China marks anniversary of killer Sichuan quake

Myanmar moves internal refugees as cyclone nears

Bangladesh issues cyclone alert

S.Sudan soldiers accused of looting spree

Tanzanian troops head for UN mission to fight Congo rebels

Jihadists hunted in Tunisia 'former Mali fighters'

Nigeria's Islamists boost military threat

One big European family

Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Human Ancestors Hunting and Scavenging

Humans may have driven ancient mastodons into 'civil war'

Monkey math

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement