chemical information


Chemical Class:

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)

Chemical SubClass


Manufacturing/Use Status

banned for use/manufacture in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Baby #4, Baby #3, Baby #10, Baby #7, Baby #2, Baby #5, Baby #9, Baby #8, Kathy Fowler, Anonymous Adult 1, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Andrea Martin, Michael Lerner, Sharyle Patton, Davis Baltz, Sara Corbett, Cord Blood Sample 19, Cord Blood Sample 20, Cord Blood Sample 17, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 15, Cord Blood Sample 16, Cord Blood Sample 13, Cord Blood Sample 12, Cord Blood Sample 11

Found in these locations:

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

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-151 has been found in 27 of the 35 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. It has also been found in 10 of the 2,547 people tested in CDC biomonitoring studies.

Top health concerns for PCB-151 (References)

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

Results for PCB-151

This chemical was found to co-elute with PCB-135 and PCB-154.

in blood serum (lipid weight)

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

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.043 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 27 of 35 people in the group

CDC biomonitoring results

  • geometric mean: 3.2 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 10 of 2547 people in the group
ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum 23.9

PCB-151 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.