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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 include information contained in the data packages along with the information acquired during the site visit. This health consultation will only address polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination at lots F14-5-4 and F14-5-15 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Lots F14-5-4 and F14-5-15 are residential properties that may have either received PCB contaminated fill material from the G.E. facility, or may have become contaminated through migration by one of several possible transport mechanisms. EPA provided ATSDR with surface soil (0-to-6-inches) and subsurface soil (various depths) sampling data. Samples were analyzed for PCBs.


The property consists of a long lot that runs parallel to Bromback Street. Except for an area approximately 50 yards south of the house, surface soil samples were less than 2 parts per million (ppm). In the middle section of the property adjacent to a pond and south of the house, there is an area that has PCB contamination in the surface soil higher than 2 ppm. Six surface soil samples in this area ranged from 7.2 to 69 ppm. Subsurface PCB levels were low throughout the site down to 4 feet below the surface. There were two samples collected in the subsurface (SB-10 and SB-4) that detected PCBs at 21 ppm and 210 ppm at 4-to-6 feet and 6-to-8 feet, respectively.


There was one surface soil sample that detected PCBs at 2.5 ppm. The remaining surface soil samples were less than 2 ppm. Subsurface PCB levels were less than 1 ppm.


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.



  1. Soil adjacent to the pond poses a public health hazard for long-term exposures. There are only two isolated areas of PCB contamination at depth, indicating that widespread use of contaminated fill did not occur at F14-5-4.


  1. The surface and subsurface PCB levels on F14-5-15 do not pose a public health hazard.


Remediate area of PCB surface contamination adjacent to the pond.


Timothy Walker, MS
Environmental Health Specialist

Concurred: Richard Canady, PhD, DABT
Senior Toxicologist

1EPA has reported that remediation has been completed on lots F14-5-4 and F14-5-15

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