PCBs Tied to High Blood Pressure

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/PCBs_health_concerns">Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are PCBs, man-made chemicals that persist in the environment, and which have been linked to a number of adverse health effects. Now, says Environmental Health News, high PCB levels might be a contributor to increased blood pressure.

The readings occur on all the pressure readings, not just on the high end where disease occurs, noted Environmental Health News. These means, according to emerging studies, that exposure to these toxins can increase blood pressure in healthy persons, explained Environmental Health News.

The study looked at a so-called “highly exposed” demographic of people residing in Anniston, Ala., was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study found that PCBs—aside from age—had the strongest tie to increased blood pressure in chemical risks studied.

PCBs, man-made chemicals that persist in the environment, were widely used in construction materials and electrical products prior to 1978. PCBs can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer causing if they build up in the body over long periods of time.

PCBS are also significantly problematic because they do not easily degrade and do bioaccumulate infiltrating plants, crops, fish, and small organisms, ultimately reaching those who eat these products. This means nearly every human being carries some PCB in his/her body, which can also be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy and in breast milk. PCBs can remain in our bodies for many years; the longer we live, the more these toxins build in our systems, increasing in strength over time.

Prior studies, including of this Anniston group by the same researchers, linked PCBs with increased hypertension risks; however, this particular study was the first to discover the effects of PCBs in what have always been considered normal blood pressure ranges, pointing to the role of PCBs in the development of the condition, noted Environmental Health News.

The team looked at 394 Anniston residents aged 18 to 92, comparing PCB blood levels to blood pressure levels, with individuals on medications to treat high blood pressure excluded, said Environmental Health News. This group is considered a high exposure group due to their proximity to a Monsanto chemical plant that closed in 1971; the plant produced PCBs for over 40 years.

Demographic and medical information was collected; blood pressure measurements were taken three times at one sitting; and blood samples were analyzed for 35 types of PCBs (total PCBs), nine pesticides, and lipids, explained Environmental Health News. The team found that the “measured PCB blood levels were higher than 90 percent of the general U.S. population,” wrote Environmental Health News.

Also, PCBs were linked with increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with links existing even after key risk factors—“age, body mass index (BMI), gender, race, smoking, and exercise”—were considered, noted Environmental Health News.

The authors concluded that the impact of environmental chemicals exposure, such as PCBs, to diseases such as hypertension, needs more study and has not been fully recognized.

PCBs have been turning up in New York City schools through older ballasts—lighting fixtures—that can leak when ballasts fail and have been making headlines for their part in contaminating NY City’s Newton Creek and Hudson River.

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