AGR staff: Blood samples contain hardly any PCB

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Blood samples from the employees of the waste disposal company AGR contain hardly any PCB

The employees of the Gelsenkirchener Abfallentsorgung-Gesellschaft Ruhrgebiet (AGR) are not contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). The blood samples of most employees were normal, only three had a PCB content slightly above the detection limit, reports the AGR.

After elevated levels of toxic PCBs were detected in an EGR interim storage facility, the Münster district government closed its operations in February. 40 of the 55 affected employees then voluntarily submitted a blood sample for testing for PCB and mercury. However, only three of the blood samples were found to have a PCB content slightly above the detection limit, reports the AGR.

PCB concentration a thousand times higher than the permissible limit value TÜV Nord had led the examination of the blood samples of the AGR employees and ordered a further check-up in three months. However, the previous analysis for mercury and PCBs showed that only three blood samples showed minimal PCB levels and there was no health risk for those affected, the district government in Münster also confirmed. The AGR was relieved in view of the reassuring results, because the high loads found on the AGR site in Resse meant that workers were considerably more tempted. According to the district government, the PCB concentration at one point of the hazardous waste warehouse had exceeded a thousand times the permissible limit. The company in Resse, however, admitted deficiencies in cleanliness in view of the proven PCB loads and explained that the affected workshop had meanwhile been cleaned intensively.

Health hazards from PCBs The toxic and cancer-causing chemical chlorine compounds known as PCBs were mainly used in transformers and electrical capacitors as well as in hydraulic systems as hydraulic fluids and as plasticizers in paints, sealants, insulating materials and plastics until the 1980s. Since May 22, 2001, the harmful substances have been banned internationally by the Stockholm Convention. However, PCBs are hardly biodegraded, so that the toxic compounds can now be found worldwide in the atmosphere, in water and in the soil. The acute toxicity of PCBs is relatively low, but in the long term, even minimal PCB loads can have significant health consequences. The symptoms of PCB poisoning include chlorine acne, hair loss and liver damage, as well as damage to the immune system (immunotoxicity). Since the poisons are hardly broken down, they accumulate in the human organism via the food chain and are considered a possible cause of cancer. In addition, according to the health authorities, physical and mental developmental disorders can be triggered by PCB. Hormonal disorders are also a possible consequence, which can cause, for example, infertility or undescended testicles in men. Special care should also be taken when handling PCB, since the toxins are directly absorbed by the body due to their fat solubility through mere skin contact. (fp)

Image: Fabio Sommaruga /

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