It’s not always what you think: researchers “surprised” by association between PCBs, hypertension

21 07 2010

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We’ve written extensively about the addition of additives and adulteration of what we ingest; from antibiotics to preservatives and fillers. When people read about chemical exposures from the environment, the concern is immediately about cancer causing agents-and with good reason. Yet here’s an example of the accumulation of PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls] via environmental exposure that potentially results in the disease state of hypertension. Remember too, that most hypertension in the US is not the result of single causative agent or condition. It is often termed essential benign (even though there is nothing benign about it) hypertension-which means we don’t know why you have it, but you have it.

There is a study recently published in the journal Hypertension, (July, 2010) that people in Anniston, Alabama “who had higher levels of the chemicals known as PCBs in their bodies were much more likely to have high blood pressure.” Please note that PCBs have been banned in the US since 1979, after concerns over possibly causing cancer. After examining 758 Anniston residents, the investigators found that “those with the highest levels of PCBs in their bodies — in the top third — were more than 3.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure than those in the lowest third.” The researchers theorized that PCBs “could possibly disrupt genes that regulate blood pressure” or perhaps “alter the way hormones work, encourage inflammation, and disrupt cell functioning in the heart and blood vessels.” These chemicals, although banned, do not readily breakdown and therefore exist within the ecosystem. Therefore they find their way into meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. Even more troublesome is the fact that since the relationship is correlative, not causative, the PCBs may just be a marker for something else which does cause the problems.

So it’s a bit like the old joke:

  • Man goes to the doctor.
  • The doctor says “I have bad and worse news”
  • “Oh my God, says the man, “What is it?”
  • “You have cancer,” says the doctor.
  • “What else could be wrong?”
  • The doctor sighs and says, “You also have Alzheimer’s disease.”
  • “Oh well,” says the man, “at least I don’t have cancer.”



One response

21 07 2010
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