Background: Anniston, Alabama, is the site of a former Monsanto plant where polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were manufactured from 1929 until 1971. Residents of Anniston are known to have elevated levels of PCBs. The objective of the study was to test the hypothesis that levels of the various lipid components (total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides) are differentially associated with concentrations of total PCBs and total pesticides, and further that different congeners, congener groups and different pesticides do not have identical associations in serum samples obtained from Anniston residents in a cross-sectional study.
Methods: Fasting serum samples were obtained from 575 residents of Anniston who were not on any lipid-lowering medication and were analyzed for 35 PCB congeners, nine chlorinated pesticides, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. Associations between toxicant concentrations and lipid levels were determined using multiple linear regression analysis.
Results: We observed that elevated serum concentrations of lipids were associated with elevated serum concentrations of ΣPCBs and summed pesticides in analyses adjusted for age, race, gender, BMI, alcohol consumption, smoking and exercising status. The strongest associations were seen for PCB congeners with three, four, or at least eight substituted chlorines. Mono-ortho substituted congeners 74 and 156, di-ortho congeners 172 and 194, and tri- and tetra-ortho congeners 199, 196-203, 206 and 209 each were significantly associated with total lipids, total cholesterol and triglycerides. Serum concentrations of HCB and chlordane also had strong associations with lipid components.
Conclusions: Increased concentrations of PCBs and organochlorine pesticides are associated with elevations in total serum lipids, total cholesterol and triglycerides, but the patterns are different for different groups of PCBs and different pesticides. These observations show selective effects of different organochlorines on serum concentrations of different groups of lipids. This elevation in concentrations of serum lipids may be the basis for the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease found in persons with elevated exposures to PCBs and chlorinated pesticides.