Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants that are still routinely detected 30 years after their restriction in many countries. PCBs have been associated with several non-communicable diseases. They are best measured via human biomonitoring (HBM). The concentrations of six indicator PCBs (PCBs 28, 52, 101, 138, 153, and 180) were measured in the serum samples of 316 Lebanese students and employees from Saint Joseph University of Beirut, Lebanon, using gas chromatography coupled to an iron trap mass spectrometer detector. PCBs were detected in 56.3 to 59.2% of the serum samples. The sum of PCB (∑PCBs) levels ranged from <LOD to 338.84 ng/g lipids, with a geometric mean level of 10.34 ± 0.98 ng/g lipids. The major contributor to the ∑PCBs was PCB 180. In the present study, the levels were, in general, lower than the values observed in several Western and European countries. No association was found between age and concentration of any of the PCBs. In terms of risk for health, the highest levels were lower than critical limits such as HBM I and II values. We observed an inverted U-shaped association between levels of serum PCBs and the risk of overweight/obesity (OR = 2.140; CI = 1.095-4.185; p = 0.026). Regarding potential food contributors, we found no relation between PCB levels and fish consumption and a moderate relation with dairy product consumption (moderate consumers of dairy products had higher PCB levels compared to lower consumers) (16.92 ± 0.1/6.92 ± 0.12; p = 0.025). The present study is the first to provide information regarding PCB levels in a Lebanese population. Larger studies are required in order to estimate the PCB exposure parameters of the Lebanese population.
Keywords: Human biomonitoring; Lebanon; Persistent organic pollutants; Polychlorinated biphenyls.