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A study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (Rockville, Maryland) and published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology indicates that exposure to polychlorinated biphenlys (PCBs) increases the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

NHL is a blood cancer involving the lymph nodes which has been on the rise for decades without any clear-cut reason.

The study involved 1,446 subjects of which 603 were NHL patients and 443 were controls. Exposure (5 years plus) to chemicals in carpet dust was examined. When any of the PCB compounds were found to be present, there was a 50% higher risk of developing NHL.    

Exposure to one particular PCB compound identified as PCB180 was most problematic, with the NHL risk increasing as the level of the PCB180 increased. A related finding showed that a residual byproduct of DDT known as DDE (another organochlorine compound) also increased the NHL risk.

DDT and PCBs have been banned in the U.S. since the 1970s. Unfortunately the general population had extensive exposure to both for decades because of their widespread use. In addition, they both continue to be pervasive pollutants here and around the world.

Dr. Joanne S. Colt, who headed the team, stated: “If the association observed in our study is real, these compounds could have contributed to the risk of NHL observed over the past several decades.”

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