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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 K10-7-9,-13 and K10-10-14 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Lots K10-7-9,-13 and K10-10-14 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.

Lot K10-7-9

There is one surface soil sample in the backyard near the fence line that detected PCBs at 18.8 parts per million (ppm). The other surface soil samples ranged from non-detect to <1 ppm. PCBs were detected in the subsurface soil (6-to-12 inches) at 16.2 ppm at the same location were the surface concentration was 18.8 ppm. The remaining subsurface sampling points were <1 ppm.

Lot k10-7-13

There is a quonset hut located on the property. A surface soil sample collected along the west fence line detected PCBS at 7.2 ppm. The other surface soil samples ranged from non-detect to <1 ppm. Subsurface soil samples detected PCBs <1.2 ppm.

Lot K10-10-14

There is one surface soil sample in the backyard near the right side of a garage that detected PCBs at 18.8 ppm. PCBs were detected at 5.3 ppm in the surface soil near the front side of the same garage. The remaining surface soil samples were <1 ppm. Subsurface PCB concentrations were <2 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.

Lot K10-7-9

There is an area of elevated PCB contamination (18.8 ppm) in the backyard near the house. Although elevated PCBs were detected in just the one surface soil sample, the small lot size increases the likelihood of exposure.

Lot K10-7-13

The surface and subsurface soil samples collected from lot K10-7-13 do not pose a public health hazard.

Lot K10-10-14

There are two surface soil samples in the backyard near the garage that show elevated levels of PCBs (8.8 ppm and 5.3 ppm). There are several proposed sampling locations marked on the map that would determine whether the PCB contamination is more wide spread. The available information does not fully characterize the extent of contamination at the site. It would be prudent to collect additional samples before a health determination is rendered.


1. Long-term exposures to soil at lot K10-7-9 location poses a public health hazard.

2. The surface and subsurface soil samples collected from lot K10-7-13 do not pose a public health hazard.

3. Lot K10-10-14 is an indeterminate health hazard.



Based on the information provided, ATSDR recommends the following:

  1. Collect additional surface and subsurface soil samples from lot K10-10-14 and analyze for PCBs. Ensure that soil samples are collected near the garage where PCB contamination was identified.

  2. Remediate soil in backyard of lot K10-7-9 around sample location #24 where PCBs were detected at 18.8 ppm.


Timothy Walker, MS
Environmental Health Specialist

Concurred: Richard Canady, PhD, DABT
Senior Toxicologist


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