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Environ Pollut. 1987;47(2):147-63.

Highly toxic coplanar PCBs: occurrence, source, persistency and toxic implications to wildlife and humans.

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  • 1Department of Environment Conservation, Ehime University, Tarumi 3-5-7, Matsuyama 790, Japan.


Isomer-specific determinations of PCB congeners in a wide variety of animal species such as fish, marine mammals (whale, dolphin and porpoise) and terrestrial mammals (dog, cat and human) revealed the environmental occurrence of highly toxic coplanar 3,3',4,4'-tetrachlorobiphenyl (T(4)CB), 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (P(5)CB) and 3,3',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (H(6)CB) within a range of few pg g(-1) to several ten ng g(-1) in fat tissues (except fish) on a wet weight basis. Detection of these toxic residues in wild specimens collected from remote areas such as the North Pacific suggests the already widespread distribution of coplanar PCBs as in the case of general PCB pollution. The clear positive correlations between concentrations of total PCBs and each of the three coplanar PCBs obtained in all mammals analysed suggest that the sources of coplanar PCB contamination to the environment are mainly commercial PCB preparations. Comparison of the composition of three toxic coplanar PCBs in commercial PCB mixtures and in the various animals indicates the relative metabolisability of these congeners as follows: 3,3',4,4'-T4CB>3,3',4,4',5-P5CB>3,3',4,4',5,5'-H6CB. Moreover, marine mammals seem to have lower potency to metabolise the coplanar PCBs in comparison with terrestrial mammals. In human adipose tissues, the concentrations of coplanar PCBs were found to be much higher than 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (T(4)CDD), 2,3,4,7,8-pentachlorodibenzofuran (P(5)CDF) and other toxic congeners. 'T(4)CDD-equivalent' analysis based on the enzyme induction potencies and the residues of these toxic chemicals indicates that 3,3',4,4',5-P(5)CB may impose a greater toxic threat than dioxins and furans to the humans and probably to wildlife also.

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