Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 98, Issue 5, pp 407–411 | Cite as

Is There a Need to Revise Health Canada’s Human PCB Guidelines?

  • Eric N. Liberda
  • Leonard J. S. TsujiEmail author
  • Bruce C. Wainman



This article assesses if there is a need to revise Health Canada’s polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) guidelines for whole blood given that plasma is typically favoured over whole blood for analysis, technological advancements in analytical methods have occurred, and the congener profiles of PCBs in the environment continue to change due to degradation and re-compartmentalization.


Canadian epidemiological and exposure studies within the last 11 years were examined in order to determine the dominant method of PCB reporting and the human tissues or fluids analyzed.


In all but one study, PCBs were analyzed on a congener basis. In the cases where an Aroclor™ equivalency was reported, the result was calculated using an Aroclor™ estimation equation based on several PCB congeners. To date, a wide variety of tissues and fluids are still being analyzed; however, only one study performed the analysis using whole blood, the basis of Health Canada’s guidelines. Additionally, congener profiles in the environment are changing due to degradation and re-compartmentalization; therefore, guidelines should reflect this change.


The reporting of whole blood PCB levels in Canada is a rare practice, and reporting PCBs solely as an Aroclor™ mixture can result in false non-detection; however, the Health Canada guidelines are based on Aroclor™ 1260 levels in whole blood. PCB congener analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy results in greater accuracy with greater sensitivity and limit of detection for the samples when compared to gas chromatography alone. Further, Aroclor™ equivalency can be estimated from congener analysis results. No other nation has yet prescribed PCB guidelines in human fluids or tissues; this is likely due to the uncertainty associated with PCB health risk assessment. Given the findings, whole blood PCB guidelines must be revised in order to reflect advances in the medical sciences.

MeSH terms

Polychlorinated biphenyls Aroclor™ guideline 



Dans cet article, nous cherchons à déterminer s’il y a lieu de mettre à jour les lignes directrices de Santé Canada sur les biphényles polycholorés (BPC) dans le sang entier, étant donné que l’on utilise d’habitude le plasma plutôt que le sang entier à des fins d’analyse, qu’il y a eu des progrès techniques dans les méthodes d’analyse, et que le profil des congénères de BPC dans l’environnement continue d’évoluer en raison de la dégradation et de la reconfiguration des BPC.


Nous avons examiné les études épidémiologiques et d’exposition réalisées au Canada au cours des 11 dernières années afin de déterminer la méthode de déclaration la plus utilisée pour les BPC, ainsi que les tissus et liquides organiques humains analysés.


Dans toutes les études sauf une, l’analyse portait sur des congénères de BPC. Lorsqu’un équivalent AroclorMD était indiqué, le résultat avait été calculé à l’aide d’une équation d’estimation des AroclorMD fondée sur plusieurs congénères de BPC. On semble encore utiliser des tissus et liquides organiques très divers pour ce type d’analyses, mais une seule étude portait sur le sang entier (le produit dont il est question dans les lignes directrices de Santé Canada). De plus, le profil des congénères dans l’environnement évolue en raison de la dégradation et de la reconfiguration des BPC, ce dont les lignes directrices devraient tenir compte.


L’analyse des concentrations de BPC dans le sang entier est une pratique rare au Canada, et la détection des BPC uniquement sous forme de mélange d’AroclorMD risque de produire des résultats faussement négatifs; or, les lignes directrices de Santé Canada sont fondées sur les concentrations d’AroclorMD 1260 dans le sang entier. L’analyse des congénères de BPC par chromatographie en phase gazeuse et spectroscopie de masse donne des résultats plus précis, avec une sensibilité plus grande et une limite de détection plus faible, que la chromatographie gazeuse utilisée seule. De plus, il est possible d’estimer l’équivalence AroclorMD à partir des résultats d’analyse de congénères. Aucun autre pays n’a encore publié de lignes directrices pour la détection des BPC dans les liquides ou tissus humains, sans doute en raison de l’incertitude associée à l’évaluation du risque des BPC pour la santé. Sur la base de ces résultats, il faudrait revoir les lignes directrices sur la détection des BPC dans le sang entier en fonction des progrès de la science médicale.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric N. Liberda
    • 1
  • Leonard J. S. Tsuji
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bruce C. Wainman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environment and Resource StudiesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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