Category: PCBs

PFAS Emerging Contaminant Response Could Learn Some Lessons From PCBs

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

PFAS compounds are not the first emerging contaminants to be addressed by environmental agencies, scientists, regulated entities, engineering consultants and lawyers. Chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and other organic and inorganic substances have at one point or another been considered “emerging” from scientific and regulatory perspectives. 

Two-year study by SIU researchers finds PCBs make minnows into bad dads

Read the full story from Southern Illinois University.

A mother’s nurturing of her offspring is a well-known story in the natural world. But when it comes to fish, it’s dad who is often tasked with the care of young ones.

One legacy of a once popular industrial chemical, however, appears to include a negative effect on this instinct in a certain fish species, according to a meticulous and time-consuming study by researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Their findings, recently published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal, found that lifelong exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) led to decreased nurturing behavior by male fathead minnows and lower survival rates of their offspring.

Environmental Chemicals and Autism: A Scoping Review of the Human and Animal Research

Katherine E. Pelch, Ashley L. Bolden, and Carol F. Kwiatkowski (2019). “Environmental Chemicals and Autism: A Scoping Review of the Human and Animal Research.” Environmental Health Perspectives published online April 3, 2019.


Estimates of autism prevalence have increased dramatically over the past two decades. Evidence suggests environmental factors may contribute to the etiology of the disorder.


This scoping review aimed to identify and categorize primary research and reviews on the association between prenatal and early postnatal exposure to environmental chemicals and the development of autism in epidemiological studies and rodent models of autism.


PubMed was searched through 8 February 2018. Included studies assessed exposure to environmental chemicals prior to 2 months of age in humans or 14 d in rodents. Rodent studies were considered relevant if they included at least one measurement of reciprocal social communicative behavior or repetitive and stereotyped behavior. Study details are presented in interactive displays using Tableau Public.


The search returned 21,603 unique studies, of which 54 epidemiological studies, 46 experimental rodent studies, and 50 reviews were deemed relevant, covering 152 chemical exposures. The most frequently studied exposures in humans were particulate matter (n=14n=14), mercury (n=14n=14), nonspecific air pollution (n=10n=10), and lead (n=10n=10). In rodent studies, the most frequently studied exposures were chlorpyrifos (n=9n=9), mercury (n=6n=6), and lead (n=4n=4).


Although research is growing rapidly, wide variability exists in study design and conduct, exposures investigated, and outcomes assessed. Conclusions focus on recommendations to guide development of best practices in epidemiology and toxicology, including greater harmonization across these fields of research to more quickly and efficiently identify chemicals of concern. In particular, we recommend chlorpyrifos, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) be systematically reviewed in order to assess their relationship with the development of autism. There is a pressing need to move forward quickly and efficiently to understand environmental influences on autism in order to answer current regulatory questions and inform treatment and prevention efforts.

EPA proposes adding West Virginia town, long haunted by chemical dumping, to list of cleanup priorities

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

For decades, since a local company dumped untold amounts of industrial chemicals nearby, residents of Minden, W.Va., have been searching for answers.

Year after year, they say, this once-thriving coal town an hour south of the state capital has experienced an alarming number of cancers and other health issues. The roughly 250 people who remain have long suspected that the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, discovered throughout the area have played a role in sickening residents.

While state and federal investigators have said that repeated tests have yet to establish those links — and might never give definitive answers — those pushing for action in Minden won a notable victory Tuesday when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the location to its “National Priorities List” for cleanup. The site is among six that the EPA is proposing to add to its Superfund list, which consists of the country’s most toxic sites.

A toxic town, a search for answers

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Industrial chemicals dumped long ago still haunt Minden, W.Va., a community beset by cancer and fear. Like her father, physician Ayne Amjad is trying to track the links.

Most PCBs are decreasing near the Great Lakes—but one’s not. Why?

Read the full story from Environmental Health News.

Toxic PCBs are on a steady decrease in Great Lakes region air but over the past decade one type remains constant—it’s likely due to yellow pigment manufacturing.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used in electrical equipment and as industrial solvents. The chemical family was banned in the 1970s amid concern that PCBs accumulated in wildlife and people and were linked to reduced IQs, cancer and suppressed immune systems. Levels of the long-lasting compounds in the environment and our bodies have been steadily decreasing since.

With at least one exception. A new study found that PCB-11, a byproduct of yellow pigment manufacturing, has remained stable in the atmosphere around the Great Lakes for more than two decades, suggesting it is still leaking into the environment.

Monsanto concealed effects of toxic chemical for decades, Ohio AG alleges

Read the full story from NBC News.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued agricultural giant Monsanto on Monday, alleging the company concealed dangers posed by a toxic chemical compound it manufactured for nearly a half century.

Monsanto continued selling PCBs for years despite knowing health risks, archives reveal

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Monsanto continued to produce and sell toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs for eight years after learning that they posed hazards to public health and the environment, according to legal analysis of documents put online in a vast searchable archive.

More than 20,000 internal memos, minuted meetings, letters and other documents have been published in the new archive, many for the first time.

Most were obtained from legal discovery and access to documents requests by the Poison Papers Project, which incorporates the Bioscience Resource Project, the Center for Media and Democracy and Chiron Return.

Statistical Survey of Persistent Organic Pollutants: Risk Estimations to Humans and Wildlife through Consumption of Fish from U.S. Rivers

Angela L. Batt, John B. Wathen, James M. Lazorchak, Anthony R. Olsen, and Thomas M. Kincaid (2017). “Statistical Survey of Persistent Organic Pollutants: Risk Estimations to Humans and Wildlife through Consumption of Fish from U.S. Rivers.” Environmental Science & Technology 51 (5), 3021-3031. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b05162

Abstract: U.S. EPA conducted a national statistical survey of fish tissue contamination at 540 river sites (representing 82 954 river km) in 2008–2009, and analyzed samples for 50 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including 21 PCB congeners, 8 PBDE congeners, and 21 organochlorine pesticides. The survey results were used to provide national estimates of contamination for these POPs. PCBs were the most abundant, being measured in 93.5% of samples. Summed concentrations of the 21 PCB congeners had a national weighted mean of 32.7 μg/kg and a maximum concentration of 857 μg/kg, and exceeded the human health cancer screening value of 12 μg/kg in 48% of the national sampled population of river km, and in 70% of the urban sampled population. PBDEs (92.0%), chlordane (88.5%) and DDT (98.7%) were also detected frequently, although at lower concentrations. Results were examined by subpopulations of rivers, including urban or nonurban and three defined ecoregions. PCBs, PBDEs, and DDT occur at significantly higher concentrations in fish from urban rivers versus nonurban; however, the distribution varied more among the ecoregions. Wildlife screening values previously published for bird and mammalian species were converted from whole fish to fillet screening values, and used to estimate risk for wildlife through fish consumption.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Tree Bark near Former Manufacturing and Incineration Facilities in Sauget, Illinois, United States

Mark H. Hermanson, Richard Hann, and Glenn W. Johnson (2016) “Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Tree Bark near Former Manufacturing and Incineration Facilities in Sauget, Illinois, United States.” Environmental Science & Technology 2016 50 (12), 6207-6215. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b01053

Abstract: We collected 27 tree bark samples near Sauget, IL, where 373 000 mt of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) was produced between 1936 and 1977 and 10 245 mt was incinerated from 1971 to 1977. Our goal was observe PCB distribution and apparent movement to residential sites, where 24 of 27 samples were collected. Only one of several waste sites was accessible for sampling. We analyzed for 209 PCB congeners, and 85 peaks are reported (other congeners either coeluted or were near or less than the detection limit). Concentrations of ∑PCB ranged from 190 952 to 2 383 988 pg g lipid–1; 24 of 27 samples had less than 50% of the maximum concentration. Two samples with the highest ∑PCB concentrations were downwind from the plant site in residential areas, but both were among the farthest away from the production facility. One high-concentration sample was near the waste site. The three highest concentrations were in trees that were less than 20 years old, showing recent atmospheric PCB mobility. The percentage of ∑PCB distributions showed a consistent but variable pattern of diCB to nonaCB congeners. DecaCB was inconsistent, because PCB-209, which was manufactured at the site in Aroclor 1270 and 1271, was the most abundant congener in 10 of the samples but lower in others.

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