How Can Cdfs Affect My Health

Much of what we know about the health effects of CDFs comes from studies of accidental poisonings in Japan and Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s, where many people ate food cooked in contaminated rice oil for several months. In both of these incidents, the rice oil was contaminated with PCBs that contained CDFs. The amounts of CDFs that these people accidentally ate were much higher than those normally found in your diet. Skin and eye irritations, especially severe acne, darkened skin color, and swollen eyelids with discharge, were the most obvious health effects of the CDF poisoning. However, these effects did not develop in some people until weeks or months after exposure and might not have occurred at all in other people. CDFs also caused vomiting and diarrhea, anemia (a blood disease), more frequent lung infections, numbness and other effects on the nervous system, and mild changes in the liver, but there were no permanent liver changes or definite liver damage in the people who accidentally ate the CDFs. The children born to the poisoned mothers also had acne and other skin irritations. Young children of these mothers also had some trouble learning, but we do not know if this effect was permanent. It is unknown whether these health effects were caused by CDFs alone or CDFs and PCBs in combination. We know nothing about the health of people who are exposed to low levels of CDFs by breathing, skin contact, or for long periods of time.

Many of the same health effects that occurred in the people accidentally exposed also occurred in experimental or laboratory animals that ate CDFs. Animals fed CDFs also had severe body weight loss, and their stomachs, livers, kidneys, and immune systems were seriously injured. Some fed high doses died. CDFs also caused birth defects and testicular damage in animals, but we do not know if CDFs make males or females infertile. Most of the effects in animals occurred after they ate large amounts of CDFs for short periods or smaller amounts of CDFs for several weeks or months. Nothing is known about the possible health effects in animals from eating CDFs over a lifetime. Only one study tested animals exposed to CDFs by skin contact. The health effects were similar to those that occurred in animals that ate CDFs. We do not know the possible health effects in animals of breathing in CDFs. The amounts of CDFs that caused health effects in animals were far greater than the levels normally found in the environment.

We do not definitely know if CDFs caused cancer in any of the accidentally poisoned people. There are no cancer studies in animals that ate or breathed CDFs. One study found that CDFs alone did not cause skin cancer in animals when they were applied to the skin for several months. However, when researchers applied another carcinogen to the animals' skin before applying CDFs, skin cancer developed. Although skin cancer developed in these animals, the Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency have not classified the carcinogenicity of CDFs.

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