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Monitoring serum PCB levels in the adult population of the Canary Islands (Spain)

1 Grupo de Investigación en Toxicología Clínica, Hospital Universitario de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, España, Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Europea de Canarias, La Orotava, Tenerife, Spain;
2 Toxicology Unit, Clinical Sciences Department, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBER ObN) and Instituto Canario de Investigación del Cáncer (ICIC) Plaza Dr. Pasteur s/n 35016-Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain;
3 Urology Service, Complejo Hospitalario Universitario Insular-Materno Infantil, Avda. Marítima del Sur, 35016-Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and Instituto Canario de Investigación del Cáncer (ICIC), Spain

The first and second authors have contributed equally to this work and, therefore, they should be considered indistinctly as first authors.

Special Issues: Human biomonitoring and health impacts of existing and emerging environmental contaminants

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic chemicals that have been detected in human serum or tissues all over the world. These pollutants could exert a number of deleterious effects on humans and wildlife, including carcinogenic processes. The Spanish population of the Canary Islands was evaluated with respect to PCB levels more than ten years ago showing lower levels than other Western populations. The objective of our study was to assess the current level of contamination by PCBs showed by this population. We measured serum PCBs in a sample of healthy adult subjects (206 serum samples from subjects with an average age of 66 years old) to evaluate the potential modification of PCB serum levels in this population during the last decade. PCB congeners (28, 52, 77, 81, 101, 105, 114, 118, 123, 126, 138, 153, 156, 157, 167, 169, 180, and 189) were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Our results showed that PCB residues were found in 84% of serum samples analyzed, the congeners 28, 153 and 180 being the most frequently detected and at the highest median values (0.1 ng/mL). In addition, the median concentration of the sum of those PCBs considered as markers of environmental contamination by these chemicals (Marker-PCBs) was 0.6 ng/mL, reaching values as high as as 2.6 ng/mL in the 95th percentile. Levels of the sum of PCBs with toxic effects similar to dioxins (dioxin-like PCBs) reached median values of 0.4 ng/mL in the 95th percentile. The reported levels are similar to those described previously in this population more than ten years ago, in the sense that the inhabitants of the Canary Archipelago show levels of PCB contamination lower than the majority of populations from developed countries. These findings suggest that currently there is not any active source of these chemicals in this archipelago. Nevertheless, as foods seem to be a relevant source for these compounds, Public Health authorities should monitor the presence of PCB residues in foods available in the market of these Islands.
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