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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 I9-5-14,-15,-16 and I9-6-8 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Lots I9-5-14,-15,-16 and I9-6-8 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.

Lots I9-5-14,-15,-16

PCB concentrations in the surface and subsurface soil range up to 1,000 ppm and 4,600 ppm, respectively. High levels of PCBs are pervasive throughout the lots in both the surface and subsurface soils.

Lot I9-6-8

One surface soil sample taken adjacent to the house on site detected PCBs at 13.9 ppm. Two surface soil samples taken on the northern section of the lot adjacent to Lyman Street had PCB concentrations of 2.5 ppm and 5.5 ppm, respectively. PCB was detected in one subsurface soil sample (near Lyman Street at 4.8 ppm. The remaining subsurface samples were < 2.4 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.


                             I9 - 5 - 14, - 15, - 16

  1. Short-term exposure (i.e., weeks) to surface soils containing PCBs in the thousand ppm range on lots I9-5-14,-15,-16 pose a public health hazard. Subsurface soil levels on these lots are also elevated, and pose a public health hazard should excavations or other activities bring the contamination to the surface.

    I9 6 - 8

  2. Surface and subsurface PCB levels on lot I9-6-8 do not pose a public health hazard.


Remediate PCB contaminated surface and subsurface soils to a safe level on lots I9-5-14,-15-16.


Timothy Walker,
MS Environmental Health Specialist
Concurred: Richard Canady, Ph.D., 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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