Fish Consumption

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)2017-07-06T14:14:33-04:00

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Not every waterbody in North Carolina is highly polluted with PCBs, but some waterbodies are. Unfortunately, PCBs do not break down easily in the environment, so even though PCBs aren’t being manufactured anymore, we still have to be concerned about the ones that are already in the environment from past uses. And, like mercury, PCBs accumulate up the food chain, becoming more concentrated in larger fish that people eat.


What are PCBs?

PCBs are a group of 209 related human-made compounds that were used in industrial applications until they were banned in the 1970s. People can be exposed to PCBs by absorbing them through their skin (not likely anymore), inhaling air near hazardous waste sites, and drinking polluted water or eating fish from polluted water. PCBs are stored in the fatty tissues of fish and people.

Why are we concerned?

PCBs are known as a “probable carcinogen,” or likely to cause cancer in humans. PCBs build up in your body fat and remain there over time.

Possible Health Effects of PCBs in Children and Infants:

  • Developmental issues in children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy
  • Lower birth weights
  • Weaker immune systems

Possible Health Effects of PCBs in Adults:

  • Low-level exposure: airway irritation, stomach upset, depression, tiredness
  • High-level exposure: chloracne (rash similar to severe acne)
  • Cancer