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Fingerprinting PCB patterns among Mohawk women


This study examined the association of contaminated fish consumption and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) body burden by comparing the similarity of the congener pattern in yellow perch, caught near the point source of industrial pollution, and in other local fish to the pattern found in the breast milk of Mohawk women from Akwesasne, a Native American community located along the St. Lawrence River in New York, Ontario, and Quebec. The similarity is defined by the weighted Euclidean distance between two congener patterns. Ninety-seven Mohawk mothers participated and provided samples of breast milk. One hundred fifty-four nursing women from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) of Warren and Schoharie counties, New York, who gave birth during the same time period, were used as the comparison group. Results revealed that the breast milk of the Mohawk women, who ate the most local fish, had a congener pattern that more closely resembled that of perch caught near the waste site or average sampled fish caught in the Reserve than Mohawk women who ate less fish or the controls. The outcome demonstrates how PCBs may be “fingerprinted” as they migrate offsite from industrial sources and ultimately result in human exposure.

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Funding for this project was provided, in part, by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (grant H75/ATH290026) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (grant P42 ES04913).

The authors express their appreciation to the following persons for their help: Ann Casey, Susan Dzurica, Kenneth Jock, Trudy Lauzon, F. Henry Lickers, Patricia Roundpoint, Priscilla Worswick.

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Correspondence to SYNI-AN HWANG.

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HWANG, SA., YANG, BZ., FITZGERALD, E. et al. Fingerprinting PCB patterns among Mohawk women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 11, 184–192 (2001).

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  • congener-specific
  • fingerprinting
  • Mohawk
  • PCB
  • similarity analysis

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