Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were widely used in various industrial applications. Research confirmed that some PCB congeners degrade slowly in the environment and can build up in the food chain. Poisoning episodes in Asia were initially attributed to PCB-contaminated oil, although subsequent analysis suggested that thermal degradation products of PCBs were responsible for the observed toxicity. Commercial production of PCBs in the United States was banned in 1979. Several agencies have categorized PCBs as animal carcinogens; however, studies of workers exposed to high doses of PCBs have not demonstrated an increased cancer risk. Health effects attributable to PCBs include skin and eye irritation. There is no reliable evidence that PCBs in the environment result in either "endocrine disruption" or intellectual deterioration in children exposed in utero. Because PCB exposures from environmental sources do not pose a significant health risk, little benefit to public health can result from continued remediation of PCB sources.
Epidemiological studies have indicated a connection between extremely low frequency magnetic flux densities above 0.4 microT (time weighted average) and childhood leukemia risks. This conclusion is based mainly on indoor exposure measurements. We therefore regarded it important to map outdoor magnetic flux densities in public areas in Trondheim, Norway. Because of seasonal power consumption variations, the fields were measured during both summer and winter. Magnetic flux density was mapped 1.0 m above the ground along 17 km of pavements in downtown Trondheim. The spectrum was measured at some spots and the magnetic flux density emanated mainly from the power frequency of 50 Hz. In summer less than 4% of the streets showed values exceeding 0.4 microT, increasing to 29% and 34% on cold and on snowy winter days, respectively. The average levels were 0.13 microT (summer), 0.85 microT (winter, cold), and 0.90 microT (winter, snow), with the highest recorded value of 37 microT. High spot measurements were usually encountered above underground transformer substations. In winter electric heating of pavements also gave rise to relatively high flux densities. There was no indication that the ICNIRP basic restriction was exceeded. It would be of interest to map the flux density situation in other cities and towns with a cold climate.
This study sought to characterize personal exposures of Canadian children to 60-Hz magnetic and electric fields and explain the variability.
Altogether 382 Canadian children up to 15 years of age wore meters recording 60-Hz electric and magnetic fields over 2 days. Meter location was noted. Thereafter, meters measured fields in the center of the children's bedrooms for 24 hours. Personal exposures were calculated for home, school or day care, outside the home, bedroom at night, and all categories combined (total).
The arithmetic mean (AM) was 0.121 microT [geometric mean (GM): 0.085 microT), range 0.01-0.8 microT] for total magnetic fields. Fifteen percent of the total exposures exceeded 0.2 microT. The AM of the total electric fields was 14.4 (GM 12.3, range 0.82-64.7) V/m. By location category, the highest and lowest magnetic fields occurred at home during the day (0.142 microT) and during the night (0.112 microT), respectively. Measurements during sleep provided the highest correlation with total magnetic field exposure. Province of measurement explained 14.7% of the variation in the logarithms of total magnetic fields, and season accounted for an additional 1.5%.
This study has identified differences in children's magnetic field exposures between provinces. Measurements at night provided the best surrogate for predicting total magnetic field exposure, followed by at-home exposure and 24-hour bedroom measurements. Electrical heating and air conditioning, wiring type, and type of housing appear to be promising indicators of magnetic field levels.