How Prolonged Exposure to Toxic PCBs Affect Human Health

The U.S. federal government imposed a ban on the manufacture and use of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs in 1979. Before this ban, which was acted up through the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs were widely used in a variety of commercial and industrial materials as an effective coolant. Its production was led by the agrichemical company Monsanto and lasted for several decades. Only when reports of its devastating environmental effects surfaced that the debate around toxic Monsanto PCBs came to a full boil and urged government agencies to issue a regulatory ban. These arguments centered on data showing how PCBs have affected the wildlife surrounding Monsanto are manufacturing plants. Since then, numerous scientific research studies have looked into human health risks associated with PCB exposure.

A specific group of studies examined the pattern of symptoms caused by PCBs to people exposed to the chemicals in their workplace. These studies showed that high levels of PCB exposure caused individuals to develop an acne-like skin condition called chloracne. People with chlroacne experience a sudden eruption of blackheads, cysts, and pustules in areas of the skin that have been most exposed to PCB compounds. Another study suggests that workers who have been exposed to PCBs for a long period of time develop issues with their blood, liver, lungs, and gastrointestinal organs. These workers also experienced noted episodes of depression and fatigue. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, workers who come into close contact with PCBs are the ones most susceptible to these alarming effects. Anyone who has to repair or maintain old PCB transformers, as well as those who work in close proximity to hazardous waste sites is among the most susceptible.

Several other studies examine the link between cancer occurrence and PCB exposures. These studies were able to provide sufficient evidence that workers who have experienced prolonged PCB exposure have developed cancers in the liver or biliary tract. Evidence from animal experiments also shows the dangers of PCB exposure and the role it plays in the development of cancer. As such, both the Environmental Protection Agency and International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified PCBs as a probable human carcinogen.

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