BACKGROUND: Most empirical estimates of human elimination kinetics for persistent chemicals reflect apparent elimination half-lives that represent the aggregated effect of intrinsic elimination, ongoing exposure, and changes in body weight. However, estimates of intrinsic elimination at background levels are required for risk assessments for the general population. OBJECTIVE: To estimate intrinsic human elimination half-lives at background levels for nine polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, we used a novel approach based on population data. METHODS: We used a population pharmacokinetic model to interpret two sets of congener-specific cross-sectional age-concentration biomonitoring data of PCB concentrations measured in lipid and blood samples that were collected from 229 individuals in 1990 and 2003. Our method is novel because it exploits information about changes in concentration in the human population along two dimensions: age and calendar time. RESULTS: Our approach extracted information about both elimination kinetics and exposure trends from biomonitoring data. The longest intrinsic human elimination half-lives estimated in this study are 15.5 years for PCB-170, 14.4 years for PCB-153, and 11.5 years for PCB-180. CONCLUSIONS: Our results are further evidence that a maximum intrinsic elimination half-life for persistent chemicals such as PCBs exists and is approximately 10-15 years. A clear conceptual distinction between apparent and intrinsic half-lives is required to reduce the uncertainty in elimination half-lives of persistent chemicals. The method presented here estimates intrinsic elimination half-lives and the exposure trends of persistent pollutants using cross-sectional data available from a large and growing number of biomonitoring programs.