Does living near a Superfund site contribute to higher polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure?

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jul;114(7):1092-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8827.


We assessed determinants of cord serum polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels among 720 infants born between 1993 and 1998 to mothers living near a PCB-contaminated Superfund site in Massachusetts, measuring the sum of 51 PCB congeners (capital sigmaPCB) and ascertaining maternal address, diet, sociodemographics, and exposure risk factors. Addresses were geocoded to obtain distance to the Superfund site and neighborhood characteristics. We modeled log10(capital sigmaPCB) as a function of potential individual and neighborhood risk factors, mapping model residuals to assess spatial correlates of PCB exposure. Similar analyses were performed for light (mono-tetra) and heavy (penta-deca) PCBs to assess potential differences in exposure pathways as a function of relative volatility. PCB-118 (relatively prevalent in site sediments and cord serum) was assessed separately. The geometric mean of capital sigmaPCB levels was 0.40 (range, 0.068-18.14) ng/g serum. Maternal age and birthplace were the strongest predictors of capital sigmaPCB levels. Maternal consumption of organ meat and local dairy products was associated with higher and smoking and previous lactation with lower capital sigmaPCB levels. Infants born later in the study had lower capital sigmaPCB levels, likely due to temporal declines in exposure and site remediation in 1994-1995. No association was found between capital sigmaPCB levels and residential distance from the Superfund site. Similar results were found with light and heavy PCBs and PCB-118. Previously reported demographic (age) and other (lactation, smoking, diet) correlates of PCB exposure, as well as local factors (consumption of local dairy products and Superfund site dredging) but not residential proximity to the site, were important determinants of cord serum PCB levels in the study community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / administration & dosage*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Soil Pollutants / administration & dosage
  • Soil Pollutants / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls