U pick'em Pigskin Payoff Contest Warren County Memories book

Studies paint darker picture of PCBs

2013-09-19T18:28:00Z Studies paint darker picture of PCBsJAMIE MUNKS -- jmunks@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
September 19, 2013 6:28 pm  • 

FORT EDWARD -- Several recent studies suggest the negative health effects of PCBs could be worse and more widespread than previously believed, with connections being drawn in recent studies to everything from changes in bird behavior to child development.

The chemicals, also known as polychlorinated biphenyls, are the target of a multiyear dredging project that is ongoing in the Hudson River.

PCBs are a suspected carcinogen and reproductive toxin, but findings from a collection of studies compiled by Peter deFur, a technical adviser on the dredging project, suggest the chemicals affect much more.

“The new information suggests worse health risks from PCBs,” deFur said.

DeFur, as a technical adviser for the dredging project, provides independent data. He presented key findings from recent studies at the dredging project’s community advisory group meeting on Thursday as part of an update on the toxicity of PCBs.

Connections have been drawn between PCB exposure and Parkinson’s disease, and the chemicals accumulate in greater levels in children who live near highly contaminated PCB sites than was initially expected, and they can alter bird behavior, deFur said.

A recently released study compared the songs of birds from a stretch of the PCB-contaminated Hudson River to birds from an uncontaminated area in the Adirondacks. Blood samples confirmed the presence of PCBs in the birds, which were demonstrating different song patterns.

DeFur referenced studies on human health in the New Bedford, Mass., area, near another PCB Superfund site, where greater levels of PCBs than expected have been found in younger children, which has been linked to lower IQs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he said.

The accumulation of PCBs in breast milk has risen over the years in the general population and among women living close to Superfund sites, deFur said.

Another study, of minks who were fed fish from the Hudson and Housatonic rivers, drew connections to the consumption and impaired reproduction and development, consistent with previous reports, deFur said.

PCBs concentrate in the fatty tissues of fish, which make them unsafe to consume. The Environmental Protection Agency tests fish tissue for PCB levels because of the potential risk posed to humans who eat them.

Representatives from the state Department of Health updated the group Thursday about outreach efforts to educate people about the fishing advisories in the Hudson River and the potential health risks associated with eating fish from the river. There’s been more of a push in the past year to target people at county fairs and other events, said Regina Keenan of the state Department of Health.

There is a “do not eat” health advisory for children aged 15 and under and women of childbearing age throughout the Hudson River Superfund site, and a catch-and-release only area from Bakers Falls in Kingsbury to the Troy Dam.

General Electric Co. is in the midst of a multiyear dredging project in the Hudson related to its dumping of PCBs into the river in the 1970s, before their harmful effects were known. The project is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the community advisory group is a watchdog group that meets quarterly.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. Au Fait
    Report Abuse
    Au Fait - September 30, 2013 10:02 pm
    Harvard scientists have studied the effects of PCBs on children in New Bedford, MA, due to the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site having the highest amounts of PCBs in the river in the world. They tested the umbilical chords of pregnant women finding PCBs, followed the children to the age of 8 and found there is in fact a link of PCBs to ADHD. Most recently, a meeting with the International Research Agency on Carcinogens met in France in February 2013. Two attendees from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH), were amongst the group. The group rendered PCBs as DEFINITE carcinogens unlike the EPA's previous statement that PCBs were "probable" carcinogens. Currently there are further studies being done by Harvard on the link of PCBs to Parkinson's Disease. Since PCBs can cause a decline in dopamine levels in the brain, this can be linked to a diagnosis of Parkinson's since the decline in dopamine levels are already associated with this disease .
  2. Hermit
    Report Abuse
    Hermit - September 24, 2013 9:29 pm
    I recall the time when I was young, watching the Kingsbury dirt roads being sprayed with this stuff. Used to play in the contaminated dirt all the time. At 17, I was hospitalized with kidney failure, suffered from nerve problems, memory loss and muscle pain since then.

    Years ago, they used to dredge the Fort Edward yacht basin to keep the channel clear for boats and the material was dumped on farmland south of the village. A young boy on that farm died from an unknown illness.

    Proving PCB's are harmful, even in these modern times is practically impossible.
  3. cat13
    Report Abuse
    cat13 - September 19, 2013 8:53 pm
    I work in Parkinson's policy, and as far as I know there is no scientific evidence linking PCB exposure to a higher incidence of Parkinson's. I'd be interested to know the source of these studies, as well as if they were published in a peer reviewed journal, etc.
  4. Kyle York
    Report Abuse
    Kyle York - September 19, 2013 7:37 pm
    This PCB story should be enough for the people of Queensbury to bombard the
    DEC with demands for a full clean-up of the toxic site in the river near the communities' water plant.

    With eyes on Ft. Edwards and the GE site, politicians/residents/reporters have all collectively forgotten about the "NiMo-Queensbury Site" where PCBs were found by the DEC in October of 1988. In 1991, the DEC added the site to the "Toxic Registry" and gave it site number "557012."

    The contamination was so excessive and so hazardous to human health that in 1996, experts removed 50 truckloads of riverfront land saturated with PCB oils (dumped illegally in the 60's and the 70's). The DEC clean-up ALSO included a plan to dredge 8 acres of PCB-contaminated sediments from the bottom of the Hudson adjacent to the toxic soil. But immense Public Opposition forced DEC to delay their plan to dredge.

    I was at the Public Hearing and the crowd was ready to burn down the Queensbury town hall. Where is the anger?


1) Comments must be contained to the topic of the articles only. Comments that stray from the direct subject of the article will be deleted.

2) Readers are free to comment on and debate other readers' comments, but comments must specifically address the issue(s) raised. Comments containing personal insults directed toward another reader in any form will be deleted.

3) Comments must be civil in tone, and there will be no name calling of any kind. Uncivil or inappropriate comments will be deleted, as will any comment containing profanities.

4) Comments critical of crime or accident victims will be deleted.

5) Comments that are potentially libelous, including those that contain accusations not supported by facts, will be deleted.

Commenters who abuse these policies will have their e-mail registrations revoked.


View the full commenting policy.

Thank you, and we hope you enjoy interacting with us and the community.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick