A longitudinal examination of factors related to changes in serum polychlorinated biphenyl levels

Environ Health Perspect. 2003 May;111(5):702-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.5866.


Consumption of sport-caught fish from the Great Lakes is a recognized source of human exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Understanding temporal changes in PCB body burden is crucial for evaluating exposure levels and augmenting validity of studies investigating their relationship to adverse health effects. Using data collected from 1980 to 1995, we evaluated longitudinal changes in serum PCB levels among 179 fisheaters and non-fisheaters of the Michigan Fisheater Cohort. Participants identified as fisheaters in 1980 ate 26 lb or more of sport-caught fish per year, whereas non-fisheaters ate less than 6 lb per year. We found a monotonic decline in serum PCB levels among all participants from a mean value of 24 ppb in 1980 to 12 ppb in 1994. This was paralleled by an 83% decrease in mean fish consumption among all participants over the same period. We combined demographic, lifestyle, and fish consumption information with PCB data and evaluated the data using regression models to identify predictors of PCB body burden over a 16-year period. Results of the mixed-effects linear regression model suggest that consumption of Lake Michigan fish before 1980, amount of sport-caught fish eaten in the past year, age, and year of data collection were significant determinants of current PCB body burden over the 16-year study period. PCB levels were particularly elevated for males who were classified as fisheaters in 1980, which may reflect higher levels of sport-caught fish consumption compared with female fisheaters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cohort Studies
  • Demography
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fishes*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Great Lakes Region
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls