chemical information


Chemical Class:

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)

Chemical SubClass


Manufacturing/Use Status

banned for use/manufacture in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Sara Corbett, Baby #2, Baby #3, Baby #4, Baby #7, Baby #10, Kathy Fowler, Baby #9, Baby #8, Anonymous Adult 1, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Sharyle Patton, Davis Baltz

Found in these locations:

NY, USA; Rockville, MD; Upstate New York, NY; Bolinas, CA; Berkeley, CA

Exposure routes:

Banned industrial insulators and lubricants. Residual environmental contamination results in continued exposures.


Laboratory animals. In animal studies, PCBs cause a wide variety of effects including liver and thyroid tumors; kidney, gastrointestinal, immune, urinary tract, and reproductive toxicity; altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism; nail and nail bed changes; reduced fertility and birth defects. Specific birth defects include reproductive tract and skeletal abnormalities. PCBs are endocrine disruptors because they alter thyroid and adrenal hormone levels and function. PCBs cause significant neurotoxicity, including decreased exploratory behavior, learning, spatial and non-spatial discrimination, auditory deficits and altered levels of brain neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin) (ATSDR 2000b).

Humans. The effects of PCBs have been studied in humans who were exposed through diet, work, and industrial accidents. PCBs are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogen (NTP 2002). They are associated with skin, liver, biliary tract, and intestinal cancers. Other effects of PCBs include respiratory effects, gastrointestinal damage (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain), eye irritation, increased susceptibility to infection, and hypothyroidism (ATSDR 2000b, Persky, et al. 2001). Other possible health effects associated with PCB exposure are menstrual irregularities and decreased fertility in women. Inconsistent associations have been noted with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, sperm and fertility in males, low birth weight and head circumference (ATSDR 2000b). PCB exposure in the womb or during lactation is also associated with decreased IQ and impaired psychomotor development, decreased immune function, altered liver enzyme and lipid levels, and skin disease (chloracne) (ATSDR 2000b).


In polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) family of chemicals - banned industrial insulators and lubricants; cause cancer and nervous system problems.

PCB-49 has been found in 15 of the 35 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for PCB-49 (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Brain and nervous systemunknown
Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)limited

Results for PCB-49

This chemical was found to co-elute with PCB-69.

in blood serum (lipid weight)

Showing results from Pollution in Minority Newborns, EWG/Commonweal Study #4, industrial chemicals and pesticides in cord blood, EWG/Commonweal Study #1, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults, EWG Study #3, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults, San Francisco Reporter, EWG Study #8, chemicals in mother and 2 children

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.00274 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 15 of 35 people in the group
0 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum 2.14

PCB-49 results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Nervous system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedATSDR (2000). Toxicological profile for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): Health effects chapter.
Limited evidence in humans - immune system toxicityATSDR (2000). Toxicological profile for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): Health effects chapter.