U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Health Effects of POPs

(Remediation Only)

POPs are associated with serious human health problems, including cancer, neurological damage, birth defects, sterility, and immune system defects.  US EPA has classified certain chemicals as “probable or likely” human carcinogens, including aldrin, alpha- and beta- hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), dieldrin, chlordane, DDT, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-ρ- dioxin (TCDD), toxaphene, chlordecone, lindane (i.e., gamma-HCH), some dioxins and furans, hexachloro-1,3-butadiene (HCBD) and PCBs.  Laboratory studies have shown that low doses of certain POPs can adversely affect organ systems.  Chronic exposure to low doses of certain POPs may affect the immune and reproductive systems.  Exposure to high levels of certain POPs can cause serious health effects or death.  In addition, studies have linked POP exposure to diseases and abnormalities in a number of wildlife species, including various species of fish, birds, and mammals.  For example, in certain birds of prey, high levels of DDT caused eggshells to thin to the point that the eggs could not produce live offspring.

Toxicological profiles of POPs can be obtained from Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).