A major achievement of synthetic chemistry was the generation of useful substances that were resistant to break-down. Unfortunately, these chemicals accumulate in the human body, including the brain. PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), one of the most toxic examples, was first produced in the 1920s in Anniston, Alabama. The town is now one of the world’s most polluted. A legal settlement for 700 million dollars – the largest so far in the US – provided compensation to 18,000 residents, including a large number of children who were exposed during brain development. However, the long-term consequences of PCB exposure remain poorly known. PCB and other persistent chemicals cause worldwide pollution, and high exposures accumulate in food chains, especially in the Arctic. These stable compounds may therefore cause brain toxicity that is persistent, even in multiple generations.
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