Child Health and the Environment

By Donald T. Wigle | Go to book overview

6
PCBs, Dioxins, and
Related Compounds

Polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAHs) comprise a large group of semi-volatile chemicals that are stable at high temperatures, highly soluble in lipids, and resistant to biodegradation. Unfortunately, these properties enable PHAHs to disperse and persist in the environment, to bioaccumulate in terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and to cause unforeseen adverse health effects among wildlife and humans. All of us probably have detectable PHAHs in our bodies, the concentrations of PCBs generally being much higher than those of other PHAHs.

Chlorinated, brominated, and mixed halogenated PHAHs have similar structures and toxicity but widely variable potencies; major subgroups include biphenyls, dibenzo-ρ-dioxins, and dibenzofurans (Table 6-1). Monsanto, the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States, produced about 700,000 tons during the period 1929–1979, annual output peaking in 1970 at 43,000 tons. Given their high heat capacity and stability, PCBs were ideal for uses in heat-resistant solvents, sealants, and lubricants, and as dielectric fluids in electrical transformers, fluorescent light ballasts, and other electrical equipment. The most intensely studied PHAH is 2,3,7,8tetrachloro-ρ-dibenzodioxin (TCDD), one of the most potent known toxicants (Schiestl et al., 1997).

This chapter describes the health threats to children of the widespread use and dispersion of these highly toxic chemicals. The PCBs illustrate a

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Child Health and the Environment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xv
  • 1 - Environmental Threats to Child Health- Overview 1
  • 2 - Environmental Epidemiology 27
  • 3 - Risk Assessment 47
  • 4 - Metals—Lead 71
  • 5 - Metals—Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Manganese 99
  • 6 - Pcbs, Dioxins, and Related Compounds 136
  • 7 - Pesticides 162
  • 9 - Hormonally Active Agents 189
  • 9 - Radiation 229
  • 10 - Indoor Air 270
  • 11 - Outdoor Air 300
  • 12 - Water 334
  • 13 - Conclusion 366
  • Index 383
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