PCBs and Health: The Hudson River Communities Project

Project Background

PCBs and Health: the Hudson River Communities Project is an environmental health study being done by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) in the Fort Edward, Hudson Falls, and Glens Falls areas of Upstate New York. The purpose is to look at how polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) affect people's nervous system. Blood, outdoor and indoor air were collected from a study group (Fort Edward and Hudson Falls) and a comparison group (Glens Falls) and the PCB levels were measured. An interview and a set of neurological tests were also performed.

Project Update

  • We have shared the results of the study to date with study participants and other interested parties through a series of four information sheets (Information Sheets #1 through #4). Links to these information sheets are provided below.
  • Future information sheets will summarize the results for the indoor air sampling and the combined blood and air analyses.
  • In addition to the information sheets, we submitted three manuscripts - one on PCBs in human blood, one on PCBs in outdoor air, and one on PCBs and nervous system functioning - to professional journals for review for publication. Two of them have already been published:
    • Fitzgerald, E, Belanger, E, Gomez, M, Hwang, S, Jansing, R, and Hicks, H. (2007). Environmental exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) among older residents of upper Hudson River communities. Environmental Research, 104 (3): 352-360.
    • Palmer PM, Belanger EE, Wilson LR, Hwang S-A, Narang R, Gomez MI, Cayo MR, Durocher L, and Fitzgerald EF. Outdoor Air PCB Concentrations in Three Communities along the Upper Hudson River, New York. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 2008, 54 (3):363-371. DOI:10.1007/s00244-007-9035-z.

More about PCBs and the Hudson River Communities Project

  • PCBs are a group of 209 individual chlorinated chemicals, known as congeners. In general, the more chlorinated a PCB chemical is, the longer it stays in the human body. Likewise, the less chlorinated a PCB chemical is, the shorter time it will remain in the body.
  • We did see higher blood PCB levels for the more chlorinated PCB chemicals in people who ate contaminated fish from the Hudson River compared to those who did not. This suggests that some of the PCBs eaten in the past are still present today in peoples' bodies.
  • We also found that outdoor air PCB levels are higher in the study area (Fort Edward and Hudson Falls) than in the comparison area (Glens Falls). These results only tell us about the PCB levels that existed in air between 2000 and 2002. The PCB chemicals that are typically found in the air are less chlorinated PCBs.

Additional Points to Keep in Mind

  • The data for this study were collected from 2000 to 2002.
  • PCB levels may be lower now than they were in the past when PCBs were still in use (1945-1977). This means that differences between the study areas' air and blood PCB levels may have been larger in the past.
  • This study was not designed to assess local PCB sites as potential sources of current contamination.
  • Comparisons between this study and other studies must be reviewed carefully. There may be some differences in the way PCB levels were measured and calculated. There may also be differences in the populations studied.

Links to Information Sheets and other materials