Is There a Need to Revise Health Canada’s Human PCB Guidelines?
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BACKGROUND: This article assesses if there is a need to revise Health Canada's polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) guidelines for whole blood given that plasma is typically favoured over whole blood for analysis, technological advancements in analytical methods have occurred, and the congener profiles of PCBs in the environment continue to change due to degradation and re-compartmentalization. METHODS: Canadian epidemiological and exposure studies within the last 11 years were examined in order to determine the dominant method of PCB reporting and the human tissues or fluids analyzed. FINDINGS: In all but one study, PCBs were analyzed on a congener basis. In the cases where an Aroclor equivalency was reported, the result was calculated using an Aroclor estimation equation based on several PCB congeners. To date, a wide variety of tissues and fluids are still being analyzed; however, only one study performed the analysis using whole blood, the basis of Health Canada's guidelines. Additionally, congener profiles in the environment are changing due to degradation and re-compartmentalization; therefore, guidelines should reflect this change. CONCLUSION: The reporting of whole blood PCB levels in Canada is a rare practice, and reporting PCBs solely as an Aroclor mixture can result in false non-detection; however, the Health Canada guidelines are based on Aroclor 1260 levels in whole blood. PCB congener analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy results in greater accuracy with greater sensitivity and limit of detection for the samples when compared to gas chromatography alone. Further, Aroclor equivalency can be estimated from congener analysis results. No other nation has yet prescribed PCB guidelines in human fluids or tissues; this is likely due to the uncertainty associated with PCB health risk assessment. Given the findings, whole blood PCB guidelines must be revised in order to reflect advances in the medical sciences.