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Neuropsychological effects of chronic low-dose exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): A cross-sectional study

DOI: 10.1186/1476-069x-4-22

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Thirty employees exposed to indoor air contaminated with PCBs from elastic sealants in a school building were compared to 30 non-exposed controls matched for education and age, controlling for gender (age range 37–61 years). PCB exposure was verified by external exposure data and biological monitoring (PCB 28, 101, 138, 153, 180). Subjective complaints, learning and memory, executive function, and visual-spatial function was assessed by standardized neuropsychological testing. Since exposure status depended on the use of contaminated rooms, an objectively exposed subgroup (N = 16; PCB 28 = 0.20 μg/l; weighted exposure duration 17.9 ± 7 years) was identified and compared with 16 paired controls.Blood analyses indicated a moderate exposure effect size (d) relative to expected background exposure for total PCB (4.45 ± 2.44 μg/l; d = 0.4). A significant exposure effect was found for the low chlorinated PCBs 28 (0.28 ± 0.25 μg/l; d = 1.5) and 101 (0.07 ± 0.09 μg/l; d = 0.7). Although no neuropsychological effects exceeded the adjusted significance level, estimation statistics showed elevated effect sizes for several variables. The objectively exposed subgroup showed a trend towards increased subjective attentional and emotional complaints (tiredness and slowing of practical activities, emotional state) as well as attenuated attentional performance (response shifting and alertness in a cued reaction task).Chronic inhalation of low chlorinated PCBs that involved elevated blood levels was associated with a subtle attenuation of emotional well-being and attentional function. Extended research is needed to replicate the potential long-term low PCB effects in a larger sample.The neurobehavioral effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been extensively studied in neonates and children [39,62,77]. However, no conclusive evidence is available on chronic nervous system effects in adult humans. The present neuropsychological group study explored the potential cognitive and


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