Public health concern about polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had, we believed, been laid to rest in 1979 when 1976 s Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) was used to ban commercial use in manufacturing. Since PCBs do not occur naturally, and remain in the environment for many years, most environmentally detectable sources of PCB have been attributed to legacy sources. However, an Environmental Health Perspectives review that brings to light sources of PCBs in the environment claims PCB-11, used in yellow dye, is a new a source of contamination in our environment.
The review along with a new study from Rutgers University has raised media attention and ushered another chemical scare. PCB-11 is one of 209 congeners of PCB. While these chemicals were mainly used in electrical conduction insulation, some were also known to be present in pigments and dyes. In particular, the chemical is regularly found in yellow dyes in printing inks, paper, print, and clothing. Lisa Rodenburg, author of the Rutger s study and associate professor in environmental chemistry, cautions, PCBs cause a whole range of really worrisome health problems ¦There is enough evidence that there could be health effects from this specific kind of PCB that we should investigate further.
However, scientific studies conducted in the past, including one led by ACSH s medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross, do not support these claims. The only direct harm associated with PCBs to human health amounts to skin irritation a massive exposure in the 1970s led to cases of chloracne, a rash, but no other significant illnesses.. Occupational studies conducted among workers consistently exposed to PCBs found no threat linked to cancer or other chronic diseases. Therefore, there is no scientifically based reasoning to avoid the yellows of our world.