Determinants of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the sera of mothers and children from Michigan farms with PCB-contaminated silos

Arch Environ Health. Nov-Dec 1994;49(6):452-8. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1994.9955000.


Blood samples were collected from 28 mothers and from 38 school-aged children from Michigan farms on which there were polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated silos. The samples were analyzed for PCBs and other contaminants, including polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (p,p'-DDT + p,p'-DDE) via packed column gas chromatography. The PCBs were quantified, using the Webb-McCall method, with Aroclors 1016 and 1260 used as reference standards. Approximately 42% of the children had serum PCB levels above the detection limit of 3.0 ng/ml. The values ranged from 3.1 to 23.3 ng/ml, with a mean of 6.8 ng/ml. In contrast, PCBs were detected in 86% of the mothers. The mean serum concentration was somewhat higher for the mothers (9.6 ng/ml), but the range was similar to that found for the children. PBBs were not detected in any of the children, but were present in trace amounts in 25% of the mothers. Conversely, DDT was present in 66% of the children and 93% of the mothers. As with PCBs, DDT concentrations were somewhat higher in the mothers. DDE accounted for 89% of the total DDT in serum. Various potential sources of exposure were evaluated as possible determinants of serum PCB levels, using hierarchical multiple regression. Years of residence on a silo farm and consumption of PCB-contaminated Great Lakes fish both accounted for significant portions of the variance in maternal serum PCB levels. Exposure via breast-feeding explained a large and highly significant proportion of the variance in the children's serum PCB concentrations, suggesting that breast milk was the primary source of PCB exposure for these children.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Mothers
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Regression Analysis


  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls