In an article published February 20, 2014 by the news provider Environmental Health News, journalist Brian Bienkowski reports on unpublished research results by Lisa Rodenburg, Department of Environmental Chemistry at Rutgers University, U.S. and colleagues indicating the presence of polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in clothing and printed materials. The chemicals have been banned in the U.S. since the late 1970s because of bio-accumulation and detrimental effects in humans and wild life. The author informs that the new study found bichlorinated PCB-11 (3,3′-dichlorobiphenyl; CAS 2050-67-1) in almost all samples of paper products and clothing sold in 26 countries and the U.S., respectively. 28 samples of non-U.S. ink-treated paper (e.g. advertisements, maps, postcards, napkins and brochures) and 15 out of 18 paper samples of U.S. provenance contained PCB-11. Also 16 pieces of mostly children clothing originating from non-American productions contained PCB-11. Here, yellow printed parts of clothing contained up to 20-fold concentrations of PCB-11 compared to black printed parts. PCB-11 was also shown to be generally present in blood samples, air and waterways. Its presence is linked to the manufacture of yellow pigments found in dyes, inks and paints. Being an unintentional byproduct of pigment manufacturing, PCB-11 is exempted from the U.S. laws regulating ingredients in consumer products. Rodenburg is quoted saying that already concentrations up to parts per billion (ppb) found in samples imply chronic exposure to the chemical. Such exposure is a potential hazard for public health. Unlike the persistent PCBs, which are linked to symptoms like reduced IQs, cancer and suppressed immune systems (Rodenburg et al. 2010), PCB-11 is quickly metabolized in the body and as for now no health related studies are available. More studies are needed to clarify the impact of PCB-11 on human health. PCB-11 has also been found in food containers made of printed carton (Rodenburg et al. 2010).

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Brian Bienkowski (February 20, 2014). “Yellow pigments in clothing, paper contain long-banned PCB”. Environmental Health News.


Rodenburg at al. (2010). “Evidence for Unique and Ubiquitous Environmental Sources of 3,3′-Dichlorobiphenyl (PCB 11)”.  Environmental Science & Technology 44, 2861-2821.