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Cashins & Associates Blog

Safety and Health - Can PCBs Cause Diabetes?

Posted by Mike Cashins on Tue, Feb, 12, 2013 @ 08:02 AM

PCBsPolychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) belong to a group of commercially-made organic compounds also known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. From 1929 to their ban in 1979, these compounds were used in a wide variety of commercial and industrial processes because of they were anti-corrosive, chemically stable, and had a high boiling point. It was also mixed with products as a plasticizer in order to make things more durable, flexible, and weather-resistant.

Unfortunately, these benefits came with some major costs.

PCBs were found to be cancer-causing, and were also found to cause problems with the immune system, respiratory system, nervous system, and endocrine system. In addition, it was found that PCBs, because of their once prized properties, refused to break down in the environment. Instead, they lingered, and embedded themselves into almost every facet of the food chain.

Now, it appears that PCBs may play a role in Type II Diabetes.

As early as 2001, scientists began to see correlations between individuals with Type II Diabetes and levels of dioxin, a PCB-like compound.  A study performed in this year concluded that increased serum levels of PCBs in subjects with diabetes or their offspring may put them at increased risk of PCB-induced changes in thyroid metabolism or neurodevelopment.

A recent study [EHP 121(1):105–110; Baker et al.] found that various types of PCBs had a dramatic effect on glucose and insulin tolerance in mice.  These effects were found to continue for several weeks after exposure.

Weight loss was found to improve glucose and insulin tolerance, but these effects were significantly weaker in animals exposed to PCBs. This may be due to the fact that PCBs stored in fat cells can be released into the body during weight loss.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 18 million Americans have diabetes, and 7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes.  In recent years, the incident rate of Type II diabetes has risen dramatically. Since 1995, the amount of people with diabetes among all age groups increased by at least 50 percent in 42 states, according to the CDC. In children, type 2 diabetes rates could quadruple while type 1 rates could triple by 2050.

Could PCBs exposure be one of the reasons?

This is just another reason why dealing with PCBs requires planning and industrial hygiene review. There are many issues to contemplate when renovating a building. A big part of that is now PCBs. A thorough hazardous building materials inspection will ensure that a project is done safely and in compliance with current regulations. A building owner or developer that does not perform a thorough inspection priot to demolition or renovation is risking a lot. The following issues could arise:

  • Employees are unknowingly exposed to hazardous materials. Creating a health risk for them and their families.
  • Discovery of PCB containing materials after the work has begun will cause a major delay in the project schedule.
  • Construction debris is illegally disposed of. Contractor and Building Owner could face legal action, EPA Fines, and bear the brunt of cleanup costs.
  • Regulatory fines\action creates bad publicity for the project, contractor and property owner.

Avoid these issues by following our simple to use one page flow chart. The flow chart has been designed to assist property owners and contractors navigate the EPA - PCB Regulations.

Download Our Free EPA - PCB Compliance Flow Chart Now!   

Topics: health & safety, industrial hygiene

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