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PCBs in our environment

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are a mixture of individual chemicals which are no longer produced in the United States, but are still found in the environment. Health effects that have been associated with exposure to PCBs include acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs are known to cause cancer in animals.

These health effects are generally associated with exposure to

  1. large amounts of PCBs as in an industrial setting where people are working directly with PCBS; or
  2. children whose mothers were exposed to PCBs while pregnant.

Most of us have PCBs in our bodies, because small amounts of PCBs are very common in our environment. A very common way that we get PCBs in our bodies is through the fish that we eat. Fish easily store PCBs in their tissues, and when we eat the fish we eat small amounts of PCBs.

PCBs in fish

In Washington and most other states, there are fish consumption advisories that recommend limiting the amount of certain species of fish. To learn about fish consumption advisories in Washington State and King County, consult the Washington State Dept. of Health's Office of Environmental Health Assessments.

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