Manufacture of PCBs was terminated as we entered the 1980s but only after evidence that this dangerous class of compound had serious health effects and that they build up in the environment.
The Harmful Health Effects of PCBs
Extensive study on the health effects of PCBs showed that they are a potential carcinogen. This cancer causing agent does not break down in the environment and tends to collect in fish species exposed to water containing PCBs. For this reason it is important that PCBs do not get spilled onto the ground where they are then taken into the ground water system.
Other adverse health effects from PCB exposure include harm to the reproductive system in adults and the potential for neurological development issues in children. In adults exposure to PCBs may be linked to other neurological problems such as numbness, limb pain and headaches. Frequent infections, skin rashes, skin thickening and deformed nails have also been documented as symptoms of PCB exposure.
Sources Of PCBs
PCBs are an entirely man made compound and are not found naturally in the environment, however they are found in the fatty tissues of many wildlife including fish because of their persistence when released into the environment.
Concentrated PCBs are most often oily liquids. They can also be solids. They can range from colourless to light yellow in colour. They have no smell or taste. A popular manufacturer of PCBs named their product Aroclor. This product often shipped in drums. If you have these drums on your property it is possible they may have leaked into the soil and will need professional remediation to prevent environmental contamination.
PCBs made for good insulating material and were fire resistant. These properties made them good coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. These compounds still exist in many workplaces due to their widespread use before the health effects were discovered. Fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical appliances, old microscope oil and hydraulic fluids may be sources of PCBs in your workplace.