Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Exposure Assessment by Multivariate Statistical Analysis of Serum Congener Profiles in an Adult Native American Population

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Environmental Research







Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



The major determinants of human polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) body burden include the source and route of exposure and the toxicokinetic processes occurring after uptake. However, the relative importance of each factor for individual subjects cannot currently be determined. The present study characterizes levels and patterns of PCB congeners in a large cohort of adult Akwesasne Mohawks with historical PCB exposure. Total serum PCB ranged from 0.29 to 48.32 ng/g and was higher in adult men than in women (median of 3.81 vs. 2.94 ng/g). The mean serum congener profile for the full cohort was dominated by persistent penta- to hepta-chlorinated biphenyls; several labile congeners were also prominent. In order to provide additional information on individual body burden determinants, multivariate exploratory data analysis techniques were applied to the congener-specific serum PCB data. A self-training receptor model, polytopic vector analysis (PVA), was employed to determine the number, composition, and relative proportions of independent congener patterns that contributed to the overall serum PCB profile for each Mohawk subject. PVA identified five such patterns, each of which was characterized by a unique mix of congeners. One pattern observed in a limited number of Mohawks was similar to those reported for air sampled near contaminated sediment deposits at Akwesasne and for volatilized Aroclor 1248 and is hypothesized to reflect recent inhalation exposure in these subjects. A second pattern was consistent with unaltered Aroclor 1254. A third pattern, resembling Aroclor 1262 but without labile congeners, was correlated with age and is interpreted as representing a lifetime PCB accumulation profile. The final two patterns were dominated by subsets of major persistent congeners and are hypothesized to reflect intermediate bioaccumulation profiles and/or differences in individual toxicokinetics. The results confirm the utility of a multivariate exploratory analysis approach to congener-specific PCB data and provide additional insight into the exposure and individual factors that determine PCB body burden in this population.