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  • Original Article
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Analysis of NHANES measured blood PCBs in the general US population and application of SHEDS model to identify key exposure factors


Studies have shown that the US population continues to be exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), despite their ban more than three decades ago, but the reasons are not fully understood. The objectives of this paper are to characterize patterns of PCBs in blood by age, gender, and ethnicity, and identify major exposure factors. EPA’s Stochastic Human Exposure and Dose Simulation (SHEDS)-dietary exposure model was applied, combining fish tissue PCB levels from a NYC Asian Market survey with National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) dietary consumption data, and then linked with blood biomarkers for the same NHANES study subjects. Results reveal that the mean concentration of total PCBs in blood was higher with increasing age; however, for the same age, gender, and ethnicity, the blood PCB concentrations measured in the later NHANES survey were significantly lower than those in the earlier one. The decrease within an age group between the two survey periods lessened with increasing age. Blood PCBs among different ethnicities ranked differently between the older and the younger age groups within each survey. Non-Hispanic Blacks had significantly higher blood PCBs for the >30 year age group. For the 12 to ≤30 year age group, the “Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American or multiracial” group had the highest values, with patterns fairly consistent with fish consumption and modeled PCB exposure patterns. We conclude that for younger people, patterns correspond to reduced environmental contamination over time, and are strongly associated with fish consumption and dietary exposures. Higher PCB concentrations in blood of the older population may partially reflect past exposures to higher environmental PCB concentrations, particularly before the ban.

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Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American/Other Multiracial


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


EPA’s Food Consumption Intake Database


general linear model


geometric mean


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


Office of Research and Development


polychlorinated biphenyls


raw agricultural commodity


Stochastic Human Exposure and Dose Simulation (model)


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We thank Kristin Isaacs, Daniel Vallero, and Tom McCurdy in EPA’s Office of Research and Development for providing technical review of the paper.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through its Office of Research and Development conducted the research described in this paper. This manuscript has been reviewed by EPA and approved for publication.

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Correspondence to Shi V Liu.

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Xue, J., Liu, S., Zartarian, V. et al. Analysis of NHANES measured blood PCBs in the general US population and application of SHEDS model to identify key exposure factors. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 24, 615–621 (2014).

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