Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure and diabetes: results from the Anniston Community Health Survey

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 May;120(5):727-32. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104247. Epub 2012 Feb 14.


Background: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) manufactured in Anniston, Alabama, from 1929 to 1971 caused significant environmental contamination. The Anniston population remains one of the most highly exposed in the world.

Objectives: Reports of increased diabetes in PCB-exposed populations led us to examine possible associations in Anniston residents.

Methods: Volunteers (n = 774) from a cross-sectional study of randomly selected households and adults who completed the Anniston Community Health Survey also underwent measurements of height, weight, fasting glucose, lipid, and PCB congener levels and verification of medications. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated to assess the relationships between PCBs and diabetes, adjusting for diabetes risk factors. Participants with prediabetes were excluded from the logistic regression analyses.

Results: Participants were 47% African American, 70% female, with a mean age of 54.8 years. The prevalence of diabetes was 27% in the study population, corresponding to an estimated prevalence of 16% for Anniston overall; the PCB body burden of 35 major congeners ranged from 0.11 to 170.42 ppb, wet weight. The adjusted OR comparing the prevalence of diabetes in the fifth versus first quintile of serum PCB was 2.78 (95% CI: 1.00, 7.73), with similar associations estimated for second through fourth quintiles. In participants < 55 years of age, the adjusted OR for diabetes for the highest versus lowest quintile was 4.78 (95% CI: 1.11, 20.6), whereas in those ≥ 55 years of age, we observed no significant associations with PCBs. Elevated diabetes prevalence was observed with a 1 SD increase in log PCB levels in women (OR = 1.52; 95% CI: 1.01, 2.28); a decreased prevalence was observed in men (OR = 0.68; 95% CI: 0.33, 1.41).

Conclusions: We observed significant associations between elevated PCB levels and diabetes mostly due to associations in women and in individuals < 55 years of age.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alabama / epidemiology
  • Body Burden
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Prevalence


  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls