Evaluating the trophic transfer of PCBs from fish to humans: Insights from a synergism of environmental monitoring and physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modeling

Adam M. Simpson, Samuel A. Nutile, Olivia C. Hodgson, Ashley E. Russell, Jeremiah D. Keyes, Cody C. Wood, Ronald J. Buckanovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within fish tissues has prompted many states to issue consumption advisories. In Pennsylvania such advisories suggest one meal per month for most game species harvested from Lake Erie; however, these advisories do not account for the emergent properties of regional PCB mixtures, and the downstream accumulation of PCB congeners into human tissues is poorly documented. This study aimed to demonstrate the utility of pairing environmental monitoring with pharmacokinetic modeling for the purpose of estimating dietary PCB exposure in humans. We qualified and quantified the PCB congeners present in the filets of five Lake Erie fish species and used these data to estimate exposure under consumption scenarios that matched or exceeded the advisories. Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling was then employed to predict PCB accumulation within seven tissue compartments of a hypothetical man and woman over 10 years. Twenty-one congeners were detected between the five fish species at concentrations ranging from 56.0 to 411.7 ng/g. Predicted accumulation in human tissues varied based on tissue type, the species consumed, biological sex, and fish-consumption rate. Notably, steady-state concentrations were higher in fatty tissue compartments (“Fat” and “Liver”) and across all tissues in women compared to men. This study serves as a preliminary blueprint for generating predictions of site-specific and tissue-specific exposure through the integration of environmental monitoring and pharmacokinetic modeling. Although the details may vary across applications, this simple approach could complement traditional exposure assessments for vulnerable communities in the Great Lakes region that continue to suffer from legacy contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number122419
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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