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Serum PCB levels and congener profiles among US construction workers.

Herrick RF; Meeker JD; Hauser R; Altshul L; Weymouth GA
Environ Health 2007 Aug; 6:25
BACKGROUND: The presence of PCB in caulking (sealant) material found in masonry buildings has been well-documented in several countries. A recent investigation of 24 buildings in the greater Boston area found that 8 buildings had high PCB levels in caulking materials used around window frames and in joints between masonry blocks. Workers removing caulking material have been shown to have elevated serum PCB levels. METHODS: This project compared serum PCB levels among male workers who installed and/or removed PCB-containing caulking material from buildings in the greater Boston area with reference serum PCB levels from 358 men from the same area. Serum PCB levels were measured in the same laboratory by liquid-liquid extraction, column chromatography clean-up and dual capillary column GC/microECD analysis. RESULTS: When the congener profiles were compared between the reference population and the construction workers, the serum levels of the more volatile, lighter PCBs (di-, tri-and tetrachloro, sum of IUPAC# 6-74) were substantially higher among the construction workers. One of the youngest workers had the lowest total serum PCB levels (sum of 57 congeners) of all 6 workers, but the contribution of more volatile (less chlorinated) PCB congeners (#16, 26,28,33,74,66, and 60) was markedly higher than in other 5 workers and reference men. Only this worker was working on a job that involved removing PCB caulking at the time of the blood sampling. CONCLUSION: While the results of this pilot study are based upon small numbers (6 construction workers who handled PCB caulking), the serum PCB levels among the construction workers exceed the referents. Comparison of the congener profiles suggests that there are substantial differences between the construction workers and the general population samples. These differences, and the similarities of profiles among the construction workers strongly suggest that occupational contact with caulking material can be a major source of PCB exposure for construction workers.
Construction; Construction-materials; Construction-workers; Epidemiology; Surveillance-programs; Statistical-analysis; Polychlorinated-biphenyls; Hazardous-materials; Hazard-Confirmed; Exposure-assessment; Chemical-indicators; Chemical-properties; Analytical-processes; Laboratory-testing
Robert F Herrick, Harvard University School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02115
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Grant; Cooperative Agreement; Construction
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U54-OH-008307; Grant-Number-T42-CCT-112961; Grant-Number-T42-OH-008416
Priority Area
Source Name
Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Performing Organization
CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, Silver Spring, Maryland
Page last reviewed: December 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division