Detoxification 6: Remove Organochlorines: PCB, DDT & beta-HCH and Dioxins

PCBs:

1) Be aware of high levels in you and your children and throughout the environment                                                               Appendix A

  • Choose fish with lower PCB levels
  • Detoxification can remove PCBs from where they settle in your body: (The fatty organs: brain, heart, abdominal organs, etc.) but can dangerously redistribute them to these organs as well.
  • “Safe detoxification techniques to remove PCBs and other fat soluble toxins without redistributing them to your brain and other vital organs.”

“The organochlorines have been deemed the most detrimental chemicals to the environment. These are compounds consisting of chlorine atoms bonded to carbon atoms. They come in a variety of forms, such as DDT, PCB, and dioxins, and are produced worldwide.” Jennifer McFadden, “The Chlorination Controversy”

About PCBs:

  • PCBs can have profound effects on intellectual development. Children with greater exposure to PCBs have lower birth weights, slowed growth, and poorer performance on tests of brain development.
  • PCBs cause tumors in laboratory animals. EPA lists PCBs as probable human carcinogens.
  • Studies suggest that PCBs are also toxic to the immune system, reproductive organs, and thyroid.

Polychlorinated biphenyl’s, or PCB’s, are a type of chlorinated compounds that are the result of chlorinate hydrocarbons being manufactured by the biphenyl molecule. PCB’s come in two forms: solid and liquid. They are found in paints, printing inks, carbonless copy paper, and adhesives. The most common way for PCB’s to enter the environment is through run-off during precipitation. While it is unclear as to the effects on humans of high exposure to PCB’s, it is known that they can be passed from a mother to a child during pregnancy. Also, it is possible that exposure to PCB’s can cause skin cancer in humans and liver cancer in animals; in addition, PCB’s may affect adult reproductive systems. Damage to the nervous system can occur.  Since the rising knowledge on the dangers of PCB’s, many controversies have arisen over the use of PCB’s in industry and manufacturing. While PCB’s may be harmful to the environment and possibly to humans, it provides a cheap and efficient way to manufacture products such as pulp, paper, plastic, pharmaceutical, and water treatment processes, pesticides, and household cleaners. Environmentalists argue that the substance is harmful to the environment, animals, and possibly humans. Also, the unknown long-term effects of PCB’s are still a mystery. One of the scariest aspects of PCB’s is its longevity. After use, PCB’s will remain in and permeate through the environment and our bodies for several years. The only way to destroy PCB’s is with high temperature incineration.

A snapshot of how they have built up in wildlife and humans:

Researchers have found PCBs at extremely dangerous levels in dolphins that were stranded and died on the Texas coast.  While the researchers have not officially attributed the stranding and death of the dolphins to the PCBs, the PCB levels are 200 times the level known to cause birth defects in rats and development defects in birds.  PCBs are also known to suppress the immune systems of animals including humans.  According to Texas A&M University toxicologist, Dr. David Busbee, who leads the study, “It is a cause for concern.  These dolphins live on our coast.   They live in Matagorda Bay. They eat the same fish that we catch in the Gulf and that we eat ourselves.”

PCBs found in blood samples from 10 of 10 Washingtonians; and

PCBs and DDT are chemicals that were banned more than 30 years ago, but our air, water, land, and bodies are so contaminated that decades of cleanup efforts have yet to eliminate their threats to our health.

PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls – are synthetic (human-made) chemicals first produced in the late 1920s. They were used as cooling fluids in electrical equipment and machinery because of their durability and resistance to fire.

  • Monsanto stopped producing them in 1977. The EPA mandated phase out of most uses shortly thereafter.
  • PCBs have a similar chemical structure to PBDEs, which are currently used as flame retardants in electronics, furniture, and other consumer goods.

DDT dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane – was developed as an insecticide in the 1940s, and was widely used during World War II to combat insect-borne diseases.

  • DDT’s effectiveness, persistence, and low cost made it popular for agricultural and commercial uses. More than a billion pounds were used in the U.S. over a 30-year period.
  • EPA banned nearly all domestic uses of DDT in 1972, after the publication of Silent Spring and broad public outcry about DDT’s impacts on wildlife and people.
  • Today, use of DDT is limited to malaria control programs in some developing countries.
  • DDT found in blood samples from 8 of 10 Washingtonians in the Pollution in People study

We are still exposed to PCBs and DDT through our food.

  • Animal and fatty foods contain the highest levels of DDT and PCBs because they are stored in fat and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain.
  • Even though it was banned in 1972, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products contain DDT.
  • PCBs and DDT build up in sediment in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, then accumulate in fish.
  • Women who consume PCBs in their diet pass them to their children in breast milk: infants may get 6 to 12% of their lifetime exposure to PCBs from breastfeeding.
  • PCBs are a major contaminant in Puget Sound where they are found at very high levels in salmon and in endangered orca whales, among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.

DDT:

  • Exposure to DDT is harmful to the nervous system. People exposed to high levels exhibit dizziness, tremor, irritability, and convulsions. Workers with longer term exposure have lasting neurological and cognitive problems.
  • Pregnant women exposed to DDT are more likely to have premature or small-for-gestational-age babies. DDT is considered a hormone disrupting chemical due to its estrogen-like properties.
  • DDT causes cancer in laboratory animals. EPA lists DDT as a probable human carcinogen.

What can government and industry do?

The histories of DDT and PCBs are both success stories and cautionary tales. Since these chemicals were banned 30 years ago, levels in our bodies have declined. And yet, we still face levels that could be causing harm—decades after regulatory action.

PCBs are a major contaminant in Puget Sound, and evidence is accumulating that they are a serious threat to the Sound’s wildlife, too.

  • Puget Sound’s endangered orca whales have accumulated PCBs to the point that they rank among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.
  • Levels in orcas already exceed those needed to cause health effects such as immune system depression.
  • To this day, runoff from agricultural lands transports DDT-containing sediment to rivers and streams, where it is taken up by fish.

 

Unless you live near an industrial or agricultural site contaminated with PCBs or DDT, your greatest source of exposure to these chemicals is likely to be food. While you cannot completely avoid these chemicals in your diet, you can make some choices that will help reduce your exposure to them.

The most important actions you can take to reduce the PCBs and DDT in your diet are to cut back on animal fats and watch the type of fish you eat.

Choose fish wisely. Check with state advisories before eating sport-caught fish or shellfish, which are often high in PCBs and DDT. Commercial fish that are high in PCBs include Atlantic or farmed salmon, bluefish, wild striped bass, white and Atlantic croaker, blackback or winter flounder, summer flounder, and blue crab. Commercial fish that contain higher levels of pesticides, including DDT, are bluefish, wild striped bass, American eel, and Atlantic salmon.

See the NRDC website for an excellent review of fish that are high in PCBs.

When preparing fish, remove the skin, trim the fat, and broil, bake, or grill the fish so that the fat drips away; this will reduce your exposure to PCBs and other toxic chemicals that have accumulated in fatty tissue. Fish are an excellent source of nutrients including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, so don’t remove fish from your diet—but do be selective about the fish you eat.

Make your meat lean. When it comes to meat, choose lean meat cuts, and buy organic meats if possible. Cut off visible fat before cooking meat and choose lower-fat cooking methods: broiling, grilling, roasting or pressure-cooking. Avoid frying meat in lard, bacon grease, or butter.

 

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