Environmental History 
of the Spokane River

Effects of PCBs

PCBs in our Ecosystem

PCBs in ecosystems have been shown to cause a vast amount of detrimental effects to the environment as well as the humans that reside in that area. The reason that PCBs are a threat to organic life is due to a process by which the concentration of toxins in an organism as a result of it ingesting other plants or animals that contain that toxin, called bioaccumulation. In the Spokane River there is already an alarming high number of PCBs in the water, however, due to bioaccumulation we find much higher concentrations in the cells of the plants and wildlife of the river, which only increases the higher up the food chain the organism resides. High concentrations of PCBs can be found in animals, and humans that derives their sustenance from the Spokane.

PCB Effects on Humans

The main danger for humans are the fish of the Spokane River, which, depending on the area captured and species of fish, range in toxicity from no consumption, or one every few months. In animals, high PCB exposure has shown to cause large amounts of liver damage, cancer, reproductive problems, poor muscle coordination, and deformation of their skin and skeletons. The most commonly found symptoms of humans that have been exposed to PCBs are skin irritation and acne; However, there are studies that have shown a possible correlation between cancer and exposure to high amounts of PCBs. In addition, some studies have shown that if a woman is breastfeeding while possessing a concentration of PCBs in their system, then their child can experience a worsened short-term memory, a decrease of motor skills, and a weak immune system.

Via Spokane Center for Justice

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