Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and related compounds: environmental and mechanistic considerations which support the development of toxic equivalency factors (TEFs)

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1990;21(1):51-88. doi: 10.3109/10408449009089873.


Halogenated aromatic compounds, typified by the polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs), biphenyls (PCBs), and diphenylethers (PCDEs), are industrial compounds or byproducts which have been widely identified in the environment and in chemical-waste dumpsites. Halogenated aromatics are invariably present in diverse analytes as highly complex mixtures of isomers and congeners and this complicates the hazard and risk assessment of these compounds. Several studies have confirmed the common receptor-mediated mechanism of action of toxic halogenated aromatics and this has resulted in the development of structure-activity relationships for this class of chemicals. The most toxic halogenated aromatic is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and based on in vivo and in vitro studies the relative toxicities of individual halogenated aromatics have been determined relative to TCDD (i.e., toxic equivalents). The derived toxic equivalents can be used for hazard and risk assessment of halogenated aromatic mixtures; moreover, for more complex mixtures containing congeners for which no standards are available (e.g., bromo/chloro mixtures), several in vitro or in vivo assays can be utilized for hazard or risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Toxicology / methods


  • Dioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • dibenzo(1,4)dioxin