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Biomed Environ Sci. 1989 Mar;2(1):36-43.

Hexachlorobenzene episode in Turkey.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Hacettepe, Ankara, Turkey.


During the period 1955-1959, approximately 4000 people in southeast Anatolia developed porphyria due to the ingestion of hexachlorobenzene (HCB), a fungicide added to wheat seedlings. These HCB exposures subsequently led to the development of bullae on sun-exposed areas, hyperpigmentation, hypertrichosis, and porphyrinuria. The condition was called kara yara or "black sore." Many of the breast-fed children under the age of 2 years whose mothers had ingested HCB-treated grain died from a disease known as pembe yara or "pink sore." In this follow-up study of 252 patients, 20-30 years postexposure, there were 162 males and 90 females, with an average current age of 35.7 years, an average of onset of 7.6 years, and a duration of 2.2 years. Many patients had dermatologic, neurologic, and orthopedic symptoms and signs. The observed clinical findings include scarring of the face and hands (83.7%), hyperpigmentation (65%), hypertrichosis (44.8%), pinched facies (40.1%), painless arthritis (70.2%), small hands (66.6%), sensory shading (60.6%), myotonia (37.9%), cogwheeling (41.9%), enlarged thyroid (34.9%), and enlarged liver (4.8%). Urine and stool porphyrin levels were determined in all patients, and 17 have at least one of the porphyrins elevated. A total of 56 specimens of human milk obtained from mothers with porphyria were analyzed for HCB. The average value was 0.51 ppm in HCB-exposed patients compared to 0.07 ppm in unexposed controls. Offspring of mothers with three decades of HCB-induced porphyria appear normal.

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