Health risk assessment of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in baby clothes. A preliminary study

Environ Pollut. 2022 Aug 15;307:119506. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119506. Epub 2022 May 20.


Clothes may contain a large range of chemical additives and other toxic substances, which may eventually pose a significant risk to human health. Since they are associated with pigments, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may be especially relevant. On the other hand, infants are very sensitive to chemical exposure and they may wear some contact and colored textiles for a prolonged time. Consequently, a specific human health risk assessment is required. This preliminary study was aimed at analyzing the concentrations of PCBs in ten bodysuits purchased in on-line stores and local retailers. The concentrations of 12 dioxin-like and 8 non-dioxin-like PCB congeners were determined by gas chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry, with detection limits ranging between 0.01 and 0.13 pg/g. The dermal absorption to PCBs of children at different ages (6 months, 1 year and 3 years old) was estimated, and the non-cancer and cancer risks were evaluated. Total levels of PCBs ranged from 74.2 to 412 pg/g, with a mean TEQ concentration of 13.4 pg WHO-TEQ/kg. Bodysuits made of organic cotton presented a total mean PCB concentration substantially lower than clothes made of regular cotton (11.0 vs. 15.8 pg WHO-TEQ/kg). The dermal absorption to PCBs for infants was calculated in around 3·10-5 pg WHO-TEQ/kg·day, regardless the age. This value is > 10,000-fold lower than the dietary intake of PCBs, either through breastfeeding or food consumption. Furthermore, this exposure value would not pose any health risks for the infants wearing those bodysuits. Anyhow, as it is a very preliminary study, this should be confirmed by analyzing larger sets of textile samples. Further investigations should be also focused on the co-occurrence of PCBs and other toxic chemicals (i.e., formaldehyde, bisphenols and aromatic amines) in infant clothes.

Keywords: Dermal absorption; Human health risks; Organic cotton; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Textile.

MeSH terms

  • Benzofurans* / analysis
  • Child
  • Clothing
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated / analysis
  • Dioxins* / analysis
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / analysis
  • Risk Assessment


  • Benzofurans
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Dioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls