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Lack of data drives uncertainty in PCB health risk assessments


Health risk assessments generally involve many extrapolations: for example, from animals to humans or from high doses to lower doses. Health risk assessments for PCBs involve all the usual uncertainties, plus additional uncertainties due to the nature of PCBs as a dynamic, complex mixture. Environmental processes alter PCB mixtures after release into the environment, so that people are exposed to mixtures that might not resemble the mixtures where there are toxicity data. This paper discusses the evolution of understanding in assessments of the cancer and noncancer effects of PCBs. It identifies where a lack of data in the past contributed to significant uncertainty and where new data subsequently altered the prevailing understanding of the toxicity of PCB mixtures, either qualitatively or quantitatively. Finally, the paper identifies some uncertainties remaining for current PCB health assessments, particularly those that result from a lack of data on exposure through nursing or on effects from inhalation of PCBs.

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This manuscript does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The mention of commercial products or trade names does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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Correspondence to Vincent James Cogliano.

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Responsible editor: Markus Hecker

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Cogliano, V.J. Lack of data drives uncertainty in PCB health risk assessments. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 2212–2219 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-5157-4

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  • PCBs
  • Hazard classification
  • Toxicity value
  • Uncertainty
  • Cancer
  • Partitioning
  • Transformation
  • Bioaccumulation