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Researchers look for more participants in PBB impact studies

United Soybean Board

Studies looking into the long-term impacts of chemical contamination in Michigan are seeking more participants.

An estimated nine million Michigan residents consumed PBB, a fire retardant chemical after the Velsicol Chemical Corporation accidentally shipped the chemical instead of nutritional supplement in 1973.

Michelle Marcus is with Emory University, which is conducting research into the long-term health impacts from the exposure. She said researchers are working on two studies

“One of them is trying to understand what are the factors that are related to how quickly people eliminate PBB from their bodies.”

Marcus said of 850 people researchers recently tested, about 60 percent still had elevated levels of PBB.

Marcus said the other study will look at how PBB is transferred. She said early research has shown that women exposed while pregnant have passed on health impacts to their children.

“But people have told us that in some of their families they are seeing the same kind of health problems, reproductive problems, and thyroid problems, but it was the father who was exposed.”

Marcus said it’s not clear if it’s possible for the father to pass on PBB health impacts to his children.

“We’re trying to determine whether that’s possible through a biological mechanism called epigenetics.”

Marcus said they are looking for roughly 25 families where the only person exposed was the father to help them with the research.

If you’re interested in participating in either study you can email the research team at or call 1-888-892-0074.