Discovery and epidemiology of PCB poisoning in Taiwan: a four-year followup

Environ Health Perspect. 1985 Feb;59:5-10. doi: 10.1289/ehp.59-1568088.


An outbreak of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) poisoning from the consumption of contaminated rice oil, covering four counties in central Taiwan, was investigated. There were 1843 cases by the end of 1980. The highest frequency of incidence occurred during the period from March to July 1979. The severity of clinical manifestations varied. Most patients showed symptoms of mild or moderate severity. The major age group affected was between 11 and 20 years old. Most of the victims were students and factory workers. The amount of PCB intake in each victim was estimated to be 0.7 to 1.84 g and the latent period from the time of intake to the onset of clinical manifestations was approximately 3 to 4 months. The patients' blood PCB concentrations ranged from 3 ppb to 1156 ppb; 44.27% of 613 patients had levels of 51 to 100 ppb and 27.6% PCB blood levels over 100 ppb. In the course of 3.5 years, 2061 persons were determined to be PCB poisoning victims. Now, except for a few severe cases, their skin symptoms are very much improved. Thirty-nine babies showing hyperpigmentation were born from PCB-poisoned mothers. The fatality rate was high: eight of them died. Another 24 deaths were reported among the PCB-poisoned group, almost half of them (12) from hepatoma, liver cirrhosis or liver diseases with hepatomegaly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Oils / poisoning*
  • Oryza / poisoning*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / poisoning*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced
  • Taiwan


  • Oils
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls