A morbidity study of former pentachlorophenol-production workers

Daniel O. Hryhorczuk*, Warren H. Wallace, Victoria Persky, Sylvia Furner, James R. Webster, Denise Oleske, Barbara Haselhorst, Ralph Ellefson, Charles Zugerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is a pesticide that was once widely used for wood preservation. Commercial PCP contained impurities including higher chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) and chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs). We investigated the effects of occupational exposure to PCP and its CDD and CDF contaminants on the skin, liver, porphyrin metabolism, and central and peripheral nervous systems. In 1986 we conducted a medical survey of 366 workers who had been engaged in the production of PCP at a single plant between 1938 and 1978. The referent group consisted of 303 workers from the same plant who were not exposed to these or related compounds. Exposure was determined from computerized personnel records. The medical survey included an administered questionnaire, medical record review, physical examination by dermatologists, internists, and neurologists, and analysis of 24-hr urine for quantitative porphyrins among other tests. In this paper we present the results of analyses of the general health, chloracne, and porphyrin metabolism end points. The general health status of PCP workers was similar to unexposed workers, but 17.8% of PCP workers had evidence of current or past chloracne. PCP workers with chloracne had significantly higher mean urinary excretion of coproporphyrins (117.0 vs. 90.6 μg/24 hr) than unexposed workers after controlling for potential confounders. Workers with chloracne who had worked with both PCP and polychlorinated biphenyls had significantly higher mean urinary excretions of hepta-, penta-, and coproporphyrins than unexposed workers. We conclude that occupational exposure to PCP is associated with chloracne and biochemical abnormalities which may persist years after exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1998


  • Chloracne
  • Chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins
  • Dibenzofurans
  • Occupational exposures
  • Pentachlorophenol
  • Porphyrins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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