Evidence for increased internal exposure to lower chlorinated polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in pupils attending a contaminated school

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2004 Sep;207(4):315-24. doi: 10.1078/1438-4639-00296.


External and internal exposure to six WHO-indicator congeners of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB 28, 52, 101, 138, 153, 180) as well as subjective health complaints of a group of 377 pupils attending a PCB-contaminated school were compared with a control group of 218 pupils attending a non-contaminated school. Indoor air of the contaminated school revealed total PCB concentrations (sum of six indicator congeners times 5) ranging between 690 and 20,800 ng/m3 (median 2044 ng/m3). The lower chlorinated congeners PCB 28, 52, 101 were the prevailing contaminants (median 33, 293, and 66 ng/m3). Using improved analytical procedures at least one of the lower chlorinated congeners could be detected in 95% of the blood samples of pupils attending the contaminated school. Median concentrations for PCB 28, 52, 101, and for the sum of lower chlorinated congeners were 6, 9, 5, and 22 ng/l blood plasma, respectively, whereas the corresponding values in the control group were all < 1 ng/l. In contrast, no significant differences were found for the higher chlorinated congeners (PCB 138, 153, 180) which were detected in 1-2 orders of magnitude higher concentrations in both groups. Due to the dietary intake of these congeners similar total PCB levels were found (95th percentile 1070 and 1010 ng/l plasma in participants of the contaminated and control school). Using the Giessen Subjective Complaint List for Children and Adolescents no statistically significant differences in health complaints were observed between both groups of children. It is concluded that exposure of pupils to PCB in indoor air of the contaminated school caused increased blood concentrations of lower chlorinated congeners. Compared to background levels the detected excess body burden was very low indicating no additional health risk. Exposure was not associated to any specific subjective complaints.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring* / methods
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Students


  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls