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BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Region I U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provide health consultations assessing properties associated with the General Electric (G.E.) site in Pittsfield, Massachusetts [1]. ATSDR personnel, accompanied by a representative from EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), conducted a site visit on March 13, 1998. The evaluation of sites will be based on information contained in the data packages along with the information acquired during the site visit. This health consultation will only address polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) sampling results from lot H8-14-19 (Pittsfield High school) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

EPA provided ATSDR with surface soil (0-to-6-inches) and subsurface soil (various depths) sampling data. Samples were analyzed for PCBs.

The highest surface soil concentration detected on the property was 2.2 parts per million SS-62. The remaining surface soil samples showed PCB levels to be less than 1 ppm (see attached map). Two subsurface soil samples collected in a field south of the school building detected PCBs at 16 and 42 ppm at a depth of 6-to-12 inches. The remaining subsurface soil samples were less than 2 ppm.

DISCUSSION

PCBs are a group of 209 synthetic organic chemicals that have varying levels of toxicity. In humans, long-term exposure to PCBs can effect the skin, liver, reproductive and endocrine systems [2]. While human evidence of PCB carcinogenicity is limited, animal studies provide sufficient evidence. EPA has characterized PCBs as “probable human carcinogens” [2].

Humans are exposed to PCBs through multiple pathways. In addition to the ingestion of soil, water, and inhalation of contaminated air, food serves as a major source of PCB exposure. The potential health threat from environmental PCBs is dependent on factors such as concentration in the media, completed exposure pathways, and frequency of exposure.

Only one surface soil sample was slightly elevated for PCBs and would not pose a health hazard to students or others playing on the site. The two locations that had elevated concentrations of PCBs in the subsurface do not pose a health hazard since they: (1) encompass such a small area (2) would not amount to a significant amount of contamination if brought to the surface, and (3) are located on a school property where exposure would be intermittent.

CONCLUSIONS

The PCB concentrations measured in the soil at Pittsfield High School do not pose a public health hazard.

RECOMMENDATIONS

None.

 

CERTIFICATION

Timothy Walker, MS
Environmental Health Specialist
Concurred: Richard Canady, PhD, DABT
Senior Toxicologist

REFERENCES

  1. E-Mail request for consultation from Don Berger (EPA Region I) to Suzanne Simon, ATSDR. March 2, 1998.

  2. ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Polychlorinated Biphenyls.

 

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