A Review on Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in South Asia with a Focus on Malaysia

  • Han Yeong Kaw
  • Narayanan KannanEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 242)


Malaysia is a developing country in Southeast Asia, with rapid industrial and economic growth. Speedy population growth and aggressive consumerism in the past five decades have resulted in environmental pollution issues, including products containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PCBs and PBDEs are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by the Stockholm Convention due to their persistence, bioaccumulation in the environment and toxicity to humans and wildlife. These compounds are known to cause liver dysfunction, thyroid toxicity, developmental neuro-toxicity and possibly cancer. PCBs in air, mussels, pellets, seawater, fresh water, and human breast milk samples were analyzed in Malaysia, while studies on the pollution level of PBDEs in Malaysia were conducted on mussels, soils, leachate and sediment samples. PCBs in breast milk collected from Malaysia was the highest among Asian developing countries, with mean concentration of 80 ng/g lipid weight. On the other hand, the mean concentration of PCBs in mussels collected from Malaysia recorded the second lowest, with 56 ng/g and 89 ng/g lipid weight in two studies respectively. The concentrations of PBDEs in mussels taken from Malaysia fall in the range of 0.84–16 ng/g lipid weight, which is considerably low compared to 104.5 ng/g lipid weight in Philippines and 90.59 ng/g in Korea. Nevertheless, there are limited studies on these compounds in Malaysia, particularly there is no research on PBDEs in breast milk and sediment samples. This review will summarize the contamination levels of PCBs and PBDEs in different samples collected from Asian countries since 1988 until 2010 with a focus on Malaysia and will provide needed information for further research in this field.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) Mussel Human breast milk Sediment Status South Asia Malaysia Review Developing country Consumerism Economic growth Human health Ecotoxicology Environmental Contaminants Bioaccumulation Trend Mussel watch Survey Pellet watch Dumpsite River water Landfill leachates 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Nature Resources of Changhai Mountain and Functional Molecular (Yanbian University) Ministry of EducationJilinChina
  2. 2.Institute for Graduate StudiesTaylor’s University (Lakeside Campus)Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul EhsanMalaysia

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