The PCB blood test helps to determine an individuals Polychlorinated Biphenyls profile, allowing a medical provider to know the burden of certain substances that have been absorbed by the body. Any lubricants or coolants that are used in a variety of electronic equipment qualify as a PCB.
Although they were banned in 1979, their presence can still be found today in landfills, hazardous waste sites, and these can then leech into the soil or the groundwater to enter the human food chain. Testing has found that certain meat, seafood, and dairy products can contain PCBs.
Fat cells are known to accumulate PCBs, absorbing them and then storing them. They are not water-soluable and are not naturally excreted from the body, so they continue to accumulate. The PCB blood test helps to determine how much of a burden from these substances that a person is actually facing.
What Are the Symptoms of a Heavy PCB Burden?
PCBs affect adults and children in different ways.
In children, PCBs are most often passed from parent to child during the birthing process or through breastfeeding. This exposure then creates roadblocks for that child’s immune system development and can interfere with their behavioral development as well. Children with high PCB burdens have been known to exhibit short term memory issues, motor skill problems, and have a lower overall IQ compared to other children their own age.
In adults, having a heavy PCB burden causes similar issues, but not to the same extent that it would affect a child. Adults may notice impairments to their nervous and endocrine systems, problems with their memory, a lower overall immune response, and possibly fertility issues.
These symptoms are present after the exposure event occurs. There are also specific symptoms displayed when initially exposed to PCBs as well. This may include eye irritation, a rash, allergy development, unusual weight gain, ongoing fatigue, and sensitivity to chemicals.
PCB exposure has also been linked to certain cancers, liver damage, developmental disorders and even severe acne.
What Do My PCB Blood Test Results Mean?
The results of the PCB blood test do not offer a direct relation to the quantity of these materials over time. It is only a reflection of the PCBs that have been accumulated within the body. This means the blood test will offer a patient a specific reading in nanograms, which is abbreviated as ng.
Several different agencies have what they call a “critical” level of PCB exposure where anything below that figure would be thought of as a negligible result, but anything above it would be considered problematic for health. These are the averages from all of the various international food, environmental welfare, and occupational health/safety that have been published or are accessible online.
- For women who are of childbearing age, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding: 700ng.
- For children under the age of 3: 600ng.
- For children over the age of 3: 900ng.
All other population groups are recommended to have a PCB blood test result that is less than 1800ng to prevent critical concentration levels from forming.
How Are PCBs Treated in the Body?
Special attention is usually given to the skin and the liver when there is a known PCB exposure that has occurred. Should PCBs splash into the eyes, the recommendation is to irrigate the eyes with tepid water for a minimum of 15 minutes and then follow-up with an eye examination if bothersome symptoms still occur.
If PCBs splash on other parts of the body, immediately wash the affected skin with soap and warm water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Remove any contaminated clothing and discard of it properly.
Oral-activated coal may be given to patients who believe they have ingested a substance which contains PCBs, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is no evidence that such an action is actually beneficial.
Dealing with long-term exposure to PCBs involves monitoring the total burden that is being experienced as there is no real way to remove these substances from the body. This means having periodic examinations to check on organ health.
Here’s What You Need to Know
Most PCB blood tests will not provide a meaningful result unless there is an exposure to a massive level of PCBs. No test is available that can prove a recent exposure. This blood test only involves long-term exposures.
And, most importantly, there are very few agreed-upon standards throughout the world, which is why the results for this guide have been averaged. Discussing your PCB blood test results with your medical provider to determine what affects it could have for your health is your best option.