Children at greater risk from PCBs in schools than in homes in urban North America

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  • Published: Jan 27, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: NMR Knowledge Base / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Raman / X-ray Spectrometry / Atomic / Proteomics / Infrared Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Base Peak

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A study of the dietary and inhalation exposure to PCBs of people living in urban USA has revealed that children are more exposed at school than in the home.

The Airborne Exposure to Semi-volatile Organic Pollutants (AESOP) study measured the levels of many polychlorobiphenyls in indoor and outdoor concentrations at two locations using GC/MS. The dietary exposure was calculated using the Canadian Total Diet Survey PCB concentrations and food ingestion rates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as reported in Environmental Science and Technology.

PCB exposures have been estimated before in North America in several studies using indoor air and serum concentrations but the new study focused on urban environments, an area that had been neglected so far. In particular, the “impoverished community” of East Chicago in Indiana was selected as the urban example due to its refineries, steel mills and the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, which is heavily polluted. All are potential sources of PCBs. The rural site was Columbus Junction in Iowa that has about 5000 inhabitants.

The combined levels of all PCBs were higher in the urban homes than the rural homes. The exposure risks were higher at both locations for the children than their mothers due to the 5-10-fold greater levels found in schools than in homes. Schools provided the major route of exposure for children, however, the higher levels arose from food rather than airborne PCBs.

These observations are important due to the toxic nature of many of the PCBs which are known to be responsible for cancer and affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

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