Introduction and objective: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been used commercially since 1929 as dielectric and insulating non-flammable substances, additives for paints, etc. In Slovakia, 60 chemical production workers highly exposed to PCBs (mainly to Delor 103) were studied with duration of exposure ranging from 3 months to 19 years.
Material and methods: Clinical examinations of skin, skin histology and laboratory tests concerning lipid metabolism, iron metabolism and levels of copper provided comparisons with a control group of healthy individuals and/or the upper limits of normal values.
Results: Skin changes were found in 47 % of individuals. In most cases, milia-like efflorescences (57.14 %) occurred, as well as comedones (55.35 %); other symptoms occurred in a smaller number of workers. Hyperkeratosis, acanthosis of the epidermis (particularly in hair follicles), and a cellular infiltration of the corium were all found through histology. The intensity of cutaneous affections was associated with the changes in laboratory tests. Elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids were found in exposed workers. After a further two years, a significant increase in triglycerides was found in exposed individuals when compared with the control group. In addition, a significant increase in serum levels of copper, and total and unsaturated iron-binding capacity was detected.
Conclusions: Anamnesis showed that some people directly exposed to PCBs may develop skin changes after three months of occupational exposure. The results represent a unique snapshot of worker exposure at a given location, representing the basis for comparison with the population who grew up in the area and still live there today.
Keywords: PCBs; iron metabolism; lipid metabolism; serum copper; skin lesions.