MONDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- People in an Alabama city who had higher levels of the chemicals known as PCBs in their bodies were much more likely to have high blood pressure, a recent study found, but it's not clear if the PCBs actually caused their hypertension.
If a direct connection does exist, the finding may indicate a serious health threat to those exposed to PCBs, which were once used in many products but have been banned in the United States since 1979.
"We were surprised what a strong relationship we found," said study co-author Dr. David O. Carpenter, a public health physician and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in Rensselaer, N.Y.
The results could indicate trouble beyond Anniston, the city where the study took place, Carpenter added. While the city housed a plant that manufactured PCBs, the chemical levels linked to high blood pressure were typical of those of many people living elsewhere in the country.
PCBs -- polychlorinated biphenyls -- were used in hundreds of industrial products during much of the 20th century. The U.S. ban occurred amid fears about their adverse health effects, including the belief that the compounds may cause cancer.
More than three decades later, PCBs still linger in air, water and soil -- and in humans -- because the chemicals don't break down.
The study, published online recently in the Journal of Hypertension, was funded by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers tested the blood of 758 Anniston residents (407 whites, 351 blacks) and checked their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The researchers focused on 394 people who were not taking high blood pressure medications. After adjusting the numbers for risk factors like gender and obesity, the
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