Hydroxylated PCB metabolites and PCBs in serum from pregnant Faroese women

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Sep;110(9):895-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.110-1240989.


In the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, the traditional diet includes pilot whale meat and blubber and other marine food. Fatty fish and blubber of mammals may contain high concentrations of organohalogen substances (OHSs). Elevated levels of OHSs have been reported from the Faroe Islands, first documented in breast milk samples obtained in 1987. The aim of this study was to determine the concentrations of hydroxylated polychlorinated biphenyls (OH-PCBs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in serum samples from pregnant Faroese women known to differ in their dietary habits. High concentrations of OH-PCBs and PCBs were found in part of the human serum samples analyzed, and the relative OH-PCB and PCB congener distributions were similar to those observed elsewhere. There was a wide span between the lowest and highest OH-PCB and PCB concentrations in the serum samples analyzed, with ranges of 19-1,800 ng/g lipid weight (lw) and 150-22,000 ng/g lw, respectively. The ratio of sigmaOH-PCB/sigmaPCB averaged about 10% and varied little. 4-Hydroxy-2,2,3,4,5,5,6-heptachlorobiphenyl was the most abundant OH-PCB metabolite in all samples analyzed, with four other OH-PCB congeners as dominating metabolites in the serum. More than 25 additional OH-PCBs were indicated. This study confirms the presence of high concentrations of organohalogen substances in populations or areas far removed from their sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Arctic Regions
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Whales


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls