Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1
Figure 2


  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxicological profile for selected polychlorinated biphenyls — update (TP-92/16) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, GA, 1993

  2. American Society for Testing and Materials, Designation (1989) D4210-89: 2–7

  3. Borlakoglu J, and Haegele K, Comparative aspects on the bioaccumulation, metabolism and toxicity of PCBs. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. (1991) 3: 327–339

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bray JR and Curtis JT, An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecol. Monogr. (1957) 27: 325–349

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Burse V et al Determination of polychlorinated biphenyl levels in the serum of residents and in the homogenates of seafood from the New Bedford, Massachusetts, area: a comparison of exposure sources through pattern recognition techniques. Sci. Total Environ. (1994) 144: 153–177

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Bush B, and Snow J, Glass capillary chromatography for sensitive, accurate polychlorinated biphenyl analysis. J. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem. (1982) 65: 555–566

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Bush B, Snow J, and Connor S, High-resolution gas chromatographic analysis of nonpolar chlorinated hydrocarbons in human milk. J. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem. (1983) 66: 248

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Bush B, Snow J, Connor S et al Half-life of PCB congeners, p,p′-DDE and hexachlorobenzene in human milk in three areas of upstate New York. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. (1985) 14: 443–450

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Dunn WJ Stalling DL Schwartz TR Hogan JW Petty JD Johansson E and Wold S, Pattern recognition for classification and determination of polychlorinated biphenyls in environmental samples. Anal. Chem. (1984) 56: 1308–1313

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Environmental Protection Agency, Definition and procedure for determination of the method detection limit. Fed. Reg. (1984) 49: 43430–43431

  11. Erickson MD, Analytical Chemistry of PCBs. Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishers, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  12. Fitzgerald E, Hwang S, Brix K et al Fish PCB concentration and consumption patterns among Mohawk women at Akwesasne. J. Expos. Anal. Environ. Epidemiol. (1995a) 5: 1–19

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Fitzgerald E, Hwang S, Brix K et al Exposure to PCBs from hazardous waste among Mohawk women and infants at Akwesasne. Report for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, PB95-159935 ATSDR, Atlanta, 1995b

    Google Scholar 

  14. Fitzgerald E, Hwang S, Bush B, Cook K, and Worswick P, Fish consumption and breast milk PCB concentrations among Mohawk women at Akwesasne. Am. J. Epidemiol. (1998) 148: 164–72

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Hansen LG, Environmental toxicology of polychlorinated biphenyls In: Safe S. (Ed.), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): Mammalian and Environmental Toxicology Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1987

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hwang S, Gensburg L, Fitzgerald E, Herzfeld P, and Bush B, Fingerprinting sources of contamination: statistical techniques for identifying point sources of PCBs. J. Occup. Med. Toxicol. (1993) 4: 365–382

    Google Scholar 

  17. Kotz S, and Johnson N, Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences Vol. 5 John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1982, pp. 397–405

    Google Scholar 

  18. Mes J, Arnold D, and Bryce F, The elimination and estimated half-lives of specific PCB congeners from the blood of female monkeys after discontinuation of daily dosing with Aroclor 1254. Chemosphere (1995) 30: 789–800

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Health Advisory, New York State 1989–1990 Fishing Regulations Guide NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY, 1989

  20. New York State Department of Health, 1991–92 Health Advisories: Chemicals in Sport Fish or Game NYS Department of Health, Albany, 1991

  21. Safe S, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs): biochemistry, toxicology, and mechanism of action. CRC Crit. Rev. Toxicol. (1984) 13: 319–375

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Schwartz TR and Stalling DL, Chemometric comparison of polychlorinated biphenyl residues and toxicologically active polychlorinated biphenyl congeners in the eggs of Forster's terns ( Sterna fosteri). Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. (1991) 20: 183–199

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Sherer RA and Price PS, The effect of cooking processes on PCB levels in edible fish tissue. Qual. Assur. (1993) 2: 396–407

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Stalling DL Norstrom RJ Smith LM and Simon M, Patterns of PCDD, PCDF, and PCB contamination in Great Lakes fish and birds and their characterization by principal components analysis. Chemosphere (1985) 14: 627–643

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Wenning RJ Harris MA Finley B Paustenbach DJ and Bedbury H, Application of pattern recognition techniques to evaluate polychlorinated dibenzo- p-dioxin and dibenzofuran distributions in surficial sediments from the lower Passaic River and Newark Bay. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Saf. (1993) 25: 103–125

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Wilson ND Shear NM Paustenbach DJ and Price PS, The effect of cooking practices on the concentration of DDT and PCB compounds in the edible tissue of fish. J. Expos. Anal. Environ. Epidemiol. (1988) 8: 423–440

    Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to SYNI-AN HWANG.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


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

This article is cited by


Quick links