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Polychlorinated Biphenyls Contamination and Related Risks


Assessing Contamination of the Environment with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Associated Risk for Human Health (Serpukhov Case Study)

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Scientific & Production Association “Typhoon”, Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk

Supporting institutes

  • Kurchatov Research Center / Institute of Nuclear Reactors, Russia, Moscow\nState Committee on Sanitary Epidemiological Surveillance in Serpukhov, Serpukhov Region and Pushcino of Moscow Region, Russia, Moscow reg., Serpukhov


  • Harvard School of Public Health, USA, MA, Boston\nSENES Oak Ridge Inc., USA, TN, Oak Ridge\nUS Environmental Protection Agency, USA, DC, Washington

Project summary

The project goal is to reconstruct the history of and forecast PCBs impact on the population of Serpukhov, to assess associated risk and present advice on its reduction and to derive dose-effect relationships. To achieve this objective the following tasks will be addressed:
· Determination of PCBs environmental contamination levels in the territory of Serpukhov;
· Determination of PCBs contamination of food and estimating parameters of PCBs migration and transformation over the food chain;
· Laboratory study of PCBs migration and transformation in natural environment;
· Development of a model for PCBs migration in the territory of Serpukhov;
· Reconstruction of the history and prediction of contamination of the environment and agricultural produce in the territory of Serpukhov;
· Epidemiological and clinical and laboratory studies;
· Reconstruction and prediction of exposure, study of dose-effect relationship, risk assessment and prognosis;
· Generalization of results and preparation of a final report.

Within the proposed project, some outstanding problems will be addressed including:

· Study of quantitative relationships of PCBs intake by humans and human health status;
· Obtaining new data on the long-term dynamics of PCBs levels in human blood;
· Adaptation of the existing models and methods for risk assessment to the areas in which soil is a primary contributor of POPs contamination;
· Improvement of available models through better allowance for the exchange of organic compounds in the plant/air system and supplementing their physico-chemical properties with dependencies of kinetic and equilibrium parameters of plant uptake of organic compounds;
· Determination of the PCBs photochemical degradation rate in the cuticular wax of plants.

To achieve the project goals the participating organizations have all necessary equipment and expertise including skilled staff and technicians. Measurements of PCBs in environmental samples, among them biological, have been conducted by SPA «Typhoon» over 25 years. The currently used methodology for determination of PCBs congeners in environmental samples has been the subject of several international intercalibrations. Experimental studies and modeling of the migration and transformation of organic pollutants in the environment have been conducted earlier at SPA «Typhoon» and continue today. They are also engaged in analysis of the causes of environmental contamination and the assessment of its consequences.

The proposed project can be referred to as both applied and fundamental sciences. It is expected that results will be applicable, primarily, in health care and environmental management and that they will provide:

· An estimate of PCBs impact on human health in Serpukhov and associated risk;
· An evaluation of the effectiveness of countermeasures and proposals as to optimization of actions towards reducing negative implications of environmental contamination of PCBs in the area of Serpukhov.

The applied project targets will require scientific research, which is expected to yield new scientific results:

· Dependence of “dose-effect”, “dose-concentration in blood” and “concentration-in-blood effect” for PCBs;
· Values of rate constants of photochemical degradation of PCBs in cuticular wax of plants;
· More accurate values of parameters of PCBs transport through the food chain;
· A model for POPs transport by food chain adapted to areas in which soil is the primary source of POPs contamination;
· An improved module for exchange of POPs in the leaf/air system.

The scientific areas in which project results can be used are research into effects of POPs contamination on human health, modeling POPs transport in the environment, mainly in the air/plant system, and development of methodology for using plants as bioindicators of air contamination.

The expected results of the project will make it possible to improve the validity and accuracy of estimates of PCBs and other POPs transport through the food chain, to extend the list of POPs for which such prediction can be made, to improve the accuracy of risk assessment for people living in areas with POPs contaminated soil; and to increase the soundness and effectiveness of measures to reduce negative consequences of environmental contamination with PCBs. Collaboration under the project will result in cross-fertilization of scientific knowledge of project participants and will provide a basis for further productive cooperation in health care and environmental protection.

Execution of the project will be based on scientific and technical approaches developed and results achieved by scientists and specialists earlier engaged in the study of components of chemical weapons and their environmental impact, and those who have worked in nuclear safety and environmental support, in the testing and elimination of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear and chemical).


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