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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 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) contamination on lots J11-20-11 and J11-20-12 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Lots J11-20-11 and J11-20-12 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. There is a creek that meanders between the two properties. EPA provided ATSDR with sediment samples collected from the Creek and analyzed for PCBs. EPA also provided surface soil (0-to-6-inches) and subsurface soil (various depths) sampling data.

Lot J11-20-11

PCBs were detected in the surface soil ranging from non-detect to 78 parts per million (ppm). The highest PCB levels are located in the immediate vicinity of the house where sample concentrations of 3.51, 4.05, 5.4, 6.4, 7.5, 9.1, 57, and 78 ppm were detected. The surface soil PCB concentrations drop to <2.2 ppm near the property line adjacent to lot J11-20-12. PCBs levels in the sediment were <1 ppm. Subsurface PCB levels on the property ranged up to 370 ppm. Subsurface contamination was in approximately the same area as the surface contamination.

Lot J11-20-12

PCB levels measured in the surface and subsurface soils were <1 ppm. However, the yard has not been adequately sampled.


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.



  1. Long-term exposure to soil adjacent to the house on lot J11-20-11 poses a public health hazard. Subsurface PCB levels were also elevated in the same area around the house and pose a public health hazard if the contamination is brought to the surface.


  2. PCB concentrations in the samples collected along the J11-20-12 property line are below levels that pose a public health hazard. However, the yard has not been adequately characterized. Therefore, this property represents an indeterminate health hazard.


Based on the information provided, ATSDR recommends the following:

1. Remediate PCB contaminated surface and subsurface soils on lot J11-20-11.

2. Collect additional soil samples from lot J11-20-12.


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



  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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