Association of clinical findings in Yusho patients with serum concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated quarterphenyls and 2,3,4,7,8-pentachlorodibenzofuran more than 30 years after the poisoning event

Environ Health. 2008 Oct 2;7:47. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-7-47.


Background: The Yusho poisoning incident, which was caused by rice bran oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated quarterphenyls (PCQs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) generated by heat denaturation of PCB, occurred in 1968 in western Japan. Annual physical, dermatological, dental, ophthalmological and laboratory examinations were conducted for Yusho patients after the incident. From 2001, blood levels of individual PCDF congeners were also measured. The blood levels of 2,3,4,7,8-pentachlorodibenzofuran (2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF), PCBs and PCQs in Yusho patients were found to be significantly higher than those of the general population. We investigated the relationships between blood concentrations of 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF, PCBs and PCQs in Yusho patients and the items measured in the annual medical examination.

Methods: Medical and laboratory examination data from 501 Yusho patients enrolled in the study from 2001 to 2004 were analyzed. The relationships between blood 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF, PCB and PCQ concentrations and medical/laboratory examination data were investigated using principal components and logistic regression analyses.

Results: Serum Concentrations of 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF, PCBs and PCQs in blood tended to correlate with either acneform eruptions, black comedones, cutaneous and mucosal pigmentation, and hypersecretion of meibomian glands as well as general fatigue, headaches, cough/sputum, abdominal pain, arthralgia, increased blood sugar, increased serum gamma-GTP and decreased total bilirubin. The majority of these signs and symptoms are included in the diagnostic criteria for Yusho.

Conclusion: After Yusho patients had suffered chronic exposure to these chlorinated compounds for more than 35 years, the serum concentration of 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF in blood was significantly related to arthralgia and decreased albumin/globulin (A/G) ratio; the serum concentration of PCBs was significantly related to ophthalmologic symptoms; and the serum concentration of PCQ to increased total cholesterol. These findings suggest that the co-contaminants may affect other functions than those originally associated with Yusho.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthralgia / epidemiology
  • Arthralgia / etiology
  • Benzofurans / blood
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Food Contamination*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Oryza / poisoning*
  • Physical Examination
  • Plant Oils / poisoning*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / poisoning*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / etiology
  • Time Factors


  • Benzofurans
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Plant Oils
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls