OBJECTIVES: To measure the impact of occupational and lifestyle factors on concentrations of organochlorine compounds in a general population sample living near an electrochemical factory with a high airborne concentration of hexachlorobenzene (HCB). METHODS: Serum samples from 608 people (328 selected from a random sample) were collected in 1994. Information on lifestyles, occupation, and medical condition was obtained by questionnaire. RESULTS: HCB and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in all samples (means 36.7 ng/ml and 4.3 ng/ml respectively), followed by dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethane (DDE) and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH), found in 98.7% and 87.3% of the samples respectively (means 4.6 ng/ml and 2.5 ng/ml, respectively). Concentrations of HCB were the highest ever reported. Occupation in the factory was the main determinant of the variation in concentrations of HCB (regression coefficients 1.52 (SEM 0.14) in 1n (HCB) for workers in the production department, and 2.13 (0.23) for workers in maintenance department) and explained the highest concentrations of HCB found in men of middle age. In retired workers, concentrations of HCB declined with time since retirement. The PCBs, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT), and beta-HCH were independent of the occupation and concentrations were similar to those found in other populations. Concentrations of beta-HCH and DDE in the whole population, and HCB among non-workers, were higher in women than in men. Concentrations of all measured organochlorine compounds increased with age and body mass index. Consumption of locally caught fish was an independent determinant of HCB and PCB concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: This population incorporated HCB directly through occupation in the electrochemical factory, by airborne pollution, and consumption of locally caught fish. Concentrations of other common organochlorine compounds were not higher than expected. Environmental exposures to these compounds deserve attention due to their persistence and potential health effects.
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