Background exposure to PCDDs/PCDFs/PCBs and its potential health effects: a review of epidemiologic studies

J Med Invest. 2005 Feb;52(1-2):10-21. doi: 10.2152/jmi.52.10.


Here we review epidemiologic studies dealing with the dietary intake and the body burden of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs)/polychlorinated dibenzo-furans (PCDFs)/ polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the general population, and potential adverse health effects of these substances, especially on the risk of diabetes mellitus and endometriosis, and on thyroid function and the neurodevelopment of infants. The mean or median intake of dioxin-related compounds among the general populations of various countries is lower than the maximum tolerable daily intake (TDI) set by the WHO in 1998 (4pg TEQ/kg/day). However, there have been few reports on the distribution of intake and the proportion of subjects whose exposure levels exceed the maximum TDL. At present, it remains unclear whether background exposure to dioxin-related compounds is associated with increased risk of diabetes (because of lack of longitudinal studies), endometriosis (because of lack of studies with sufficient statistical power), or altered thyroid function (because of inconsistent results on humans). Consistent results have been reported for the association between exposure to background levels of PCBs/dioxins, especially trans-placental PCBs, and defective neurodevelopment of infants in the U.S. and Europe. Thus, efforts should be made to further decrease the body burden among women of reproductive age by reducing the release of PCDDs/PCDFs/PCBs into the environment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzofurans / administration & dosage
  • Benzofurans / blood
  • Benzofurans / toxicity*
  • Body Burden
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Diet
  • Endometriosis / etiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / administration & dosage
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / administration & dosage
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / administration & dosage
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Polymers / administration & dosage
  • Polymers / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / physiopathology


  • Benzofurans
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Polymers
  • polychlorodibenzofuran
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls