WEDNESDAY, Nov. 27, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with higher
levels of PCBs in their bodies have poorer mental abilities than
those with lower levels of the toxic chemicals, a new study
PCBs -- polychlorinated biphenyls -- are chemicals that were
used as coolants, insulating materials and lubricants in electric
equipment. Although they were banned in the United States in 1979,
PCBs are still found in the blood of many older people.
The study included more than 700 American seniors whose blood
was analyzed to determine their levels of PCBs. The participants
also underwent memory and physical-skills tests.
There was a significant association between higher PCB levels
and poorer mental performance among people aged 70 to 84. This
association also was seen to a lesser extent in people aged 60 to
Women in the older age group had the largest decline in mental
skills in relation to PCB levels in their body, according to the
study published online Nov. 25 in the journal
Environmental Health Perspectives.
"While most studies have looked at the impact of PCBs on infant development, our research shows that this toxin might affect us throughout our lives," study author Maryse Bouchard, of the University of Montreal, said in a university news release.
"Aging persons could be at particular risk because of higher cumulative exposure built up across a lifetime; susceptibility due to underlying medical conditions, such as vascular disorders; and diminished cognitive reserve capacity," Bouchard said.
The findings suggest that PCBs, even at levels generally
considered to pose low or no risk, may contribute to mental
deficits, she said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about the
health effects of PCBs.