Objective: To determine risk factors for elevated blood pressure and hypertension in residents of Anniston, Alabama who live near a plant that manufactured polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Methods: A total of 758 Anniston residents had multiple measurements of blood pressure, provided information on demographic factors, medications, smoking, and exercise, and provided blood samples for determination of PCBs and total serum lipid.
Results: Rates of hypertension increased significantly (P < 0.05) with age and concentration of serum PCBs and were higher in African-Americans (n = 351) than in whites (n = 407). Hypertension also increased with BMI, but was not related to total serum lipid, sex, smoking, or exercise. Among 394 persons not on antihypertensive medication, linear regression analysis demonstrated a significant positive relation between serum PCB level and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. After adjustment for potentially confounding variables, logistic regression gave odds ratios for the highest to lowest tertiles of total serum PCBs that exceeded 3.5 for both systolic and diastolic hypertension. When analyzed by quintiles of PCBs, the highest odds ratio was in the third quintile, suggesting a low dose effect.
Conclusion: In individuals not on antihypertensive medication, serum PCB levels were significantly associated with prevalence of hypertension. Significant positive associations were also observed between PCB concentrations and systolic and diastolic blood pressure even in normotensive ranges. The strength of the relationships between PCB exposure and both hypertension and blood pressure suggests that PCB exposure may be an important contributing factor in regulation of blood pressure.