|PCBs - Polychlorinated biphenyls|
PCBs belong to a group of toxic organochlorines. They do not readily break down in the environment and thus may remain there for very long periods of time. When PCBs are exposed to extreme heat they may form dioxins, which are highly toxic. PCBs entered the air, water, and soil during their manufacture, use, and disposal. They were used extensively as fluids in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors. They were also used in pesticides, carbonless copier paper, fluorescent light ballast and other products.
Because PCBs are stored by organisms, they work their way up the food chain. Humans are mainly exposed through consumption of contaminated foods, particularly meat, fish, and poultry.
PCB exposure can cause chloracne (a severe, persistent acne-like rash), liver damage, respiratory disorders, thyroid gland disorders, muscle and joint pain, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. PCB has been recognized as a carcinogen and linked to liver and biliary tract cancer. Babies born to women who ate PCB-contaminated fish also showed abnormal responses in tests of infant behavior. Some of these behaviors, such as problems with motor skills and a decrease in short-term memory, lasted for several years. It has been reported that PCBs are transferred across the placenta and via breast milk to infants.
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