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PCB Work Exposure Linked To Neurodegenerative Disease

Study limited by small numbers, but suggests there is an association

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women who had occupational exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) between the 1940s and the 1970s may have an excess in mortality due to neurodegenerative diseases, according to a study in the January issue of Epidemiology. The study found no association in men and is limited by the small number of cases, the authors say.

Kyle Steenland, Ph.D., of Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of 17,321 PCB-exposed workers to examine excess mortality from Parkinson disease, dementia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. All workers were employed in one of three electrical capacitor plants that used PCBs from the 1940s to the 1970s. In the 1970s, PCB serum levels from a sample of the workers were approximately 10 times the level of community controls.

In the entire cohort, the researchers found no overall excess of Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia. But sex-specific analyses showed that women had an excess of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (standardized mortality ratio 2.26; 10 deaths). In highly exposed women, there was an excess in Parkinson disease (SMR 2.95; 6 deaths) and dementia (SMR 2.04; 14 deaths).

The authors conclude that if there is a link, "further investigation will be required to determine why women and not men would be susceptible to neurodegenerative disease from PCB exposure."

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