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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (CSEM) 

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) Toxicity

Course: SS3067
Revision Date: September 2000
Original Date: June 1990
CE Expiration Date: September 30, 2006

Key Concepts

PCBs cause cancer in animals and are probably carcinogenic in humans (group 2A classification, International Agency for Research on Cancer).
Recent evidence suggests that PCBs might also have adverse reproductive, developmental, and endocrine effects.
The manufacture of PCBs has been banned since 1977.
The highest human exposures to these compounds occur via the consumption of contaminated fish and in certain occupational setting via contact with pre-1977 equipment.
The most common signs of exposure to PCBs are chloracne and elevation of liver enzymes.



Kimberly Gehle, MD, MPH; Darlene Johnson, RN, BSN, MA; Felicia Pharagood-Wade, MD, FACEP; Lourdes Rosales-Guevara, MD

ATSDR/DHEP Case Studies Team

Diane Dennis-Flagler, MPH; Sharon Hall, RN, PhD (CDC/PHPPO); Kimberly Gehle, MD, MPH; Felicia Pharagood-Wade, MD, FACEP

Edited By

Pamela S. Wigington

Original Contributors

Roger Wabeke, CIH; Richard Weinstein, MD, MPH

Peer Reviewers

Charles Becker, MD; Jonathan Borak, MD; Joseph Cannella, MD; Robert Fried, MD; Bernard Goldstein, MD; Alan Hall, MD; Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH; Jonathan Rodnick, MD; Robert Wheater, MS; Brian A. Wummer, MD

Each content expert for this case study indicated no conflict of interest to disclose with the case study subject matter.

ATSDR Publication No.: ATSDR-HE-CS-2003-0001


This monograph is one in a series of self-instructional publications designed to increase the primary care provider's knowledge of hazardous substances in the environment and to aid in the evaluation of potentially exposed patients. See the Accreditation section for more information about continuing medical education credits, continuing nursing education units, and continuing education units.


The state of knowledge regarding the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances in the environment is constantly evolving and is often uncertain. In this monograph, ATSDR has made diligent effort to ensure the accuracy and currency of the information presented, but makes no claim that the document comprehensively addresses all possible situations related pediatrics and environmental health. This monograph is intended as a resource for pediatricians and other child health care providers in assessing the condition and managing the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances. It is not, however, a substitute for the professional judgment of a health care provider. The document must be interpreted in light of specific information regarding the patient and in conjunction with other sources of authority.

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Revised 2000-09-30.