PCBs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

If you live or work near sites where PCB oils have been used or stored (such as power generation stations or transformer storage sites) you may be exposed to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) called PCBs and not even know it. PCBs have demonstrated effects such as cancer in animals and other negative effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

PCBs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

If you live or work near sites where PCB oils have been used or stored (such as power generation stations or transformer storage sites) you may be exposed to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) called PCBs and not even know it. PCBs have demonstrated effects such as cancer in animals and other negative effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

What are Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made organic chemicals that were manufactured from 1929 to 1979. Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point, and electrical insulating properties, they were used in several applications such as transformers, capacitors, and oil-filled cables. Improper disposal of PCB oils and contaminated equipment may indirectly expose us to these chemicals by contaminating the environment, our food sources, and air.

Why Protect Yourself from PCBs?

They’ve made their way into our rivers, air, and soil, contaminating wildlife, our drinking water and even places we visit regularly.   Short-term exposure to PCBs can irritate the eyes or cause skin conditions. Over an extended period of time, high levels of PCBs can cause:
  • Respiratory tract symptoms
  • Developmental issues
  • Liver and gastrointestinal complications
  • Neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children
  • Reduced fertility in women
  • Miscarriage
  • Reduced birth weights of babies exposed as fetuses
  • Cancer

Danger lurks where you least expect it

Understanding the dangers

Lack of maintenance of older electrical equipment, illegal dumping of PCB waste and burning of PCB equipment in landfills may expose us to these chemicals by contaminating our food sources and air. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are highly toxic industrial compounds. They pose serious health risks to fetuses, babies, and children, who may suffer developmental and neurological problems from prolonged or repeated exposure to small amounts of PCBs.

How To Reduce Exposure

Watch out for the following:

Protecting yourself and your loved ones are simpler than you think! Watch out for these common items found at home that may contain PCBs.

PCB related issues

Due to the use of PCBs (for their fire resistant properties) the electrical and power generation industries are particularly susceptible or even influential with PCB related issues

Contaminated material

Exposure due to direct contact with PCB equipment and contaminated material

Firefighting foams

Due to the use of PFOS/PFAS in firefighting foams this industry is particularly susceptible or even influential with PFAS related contamination issues

Recreational

Recreational use of potentially contaminated areas (where fire-fighting foam was used – including fire-fighting practice areas) can expose children to contamination

Stain/Water Resistant Items

Continuous wearing of clothes or use of carpets treated with PFOS for stain and/or water resistant properties

Flame Resistant Uniforms

Continuous wearing of uniforms treated with flame retardants (HBCD in Flame Resistant Uniforms)

PCB related issues

Due to the use of PCBs (for their fire resistant properties) the electrical and power generation industries are particularly susceptible or even influential with PCB related issues

Firefighting foams

Due to the use of PFOS/PFAS in firefighting foams this industry is particularly susceptible or even influential with PFAS related contamination issues

Recreational

Recreational use of potentially contaminated areas (where fire-fighting foam was used – including fire-fighting practice areas) can expose children to contamination

Direct contact

Direct contact with treated products e.g. carpets, mattresses, upholstery, furniture, textiles, automotive applications and building and construction materials

Clothes

Continuous wearing of clothes treated with flame retardants (HBCD)

Direct contact with Electronics

Continuous direct contact (ingest, inhale, touch) with electrical products/material treated with BFRs e.g. computer monitors, televisions, cell phones and remote controls

Agriculture treatment

Farmers, farm workers and housekeepers can be exposed to pesticides in agriculture through the treatment of crops, plants and grain stores

Landfill disposal

Hazardous waste streams/products such as electronic wastes, pesticide containers and old vehicles should not be comingled with general waste for landfill disposal

Open Burning

Open burning of waste such as green waste, copper cables and plastics can lead to the generation of hazardous emissions including Unintentional POPs

Incineration of Medical waste

If medical waste is incinerated in conditions that do not constitute best available techniques or best environmental practices, there is potential for the release of PCDD and PCDF in relatively high concentrations

Burning of certain materials

Burning of certain materials such as cable wires, plastic and electronics can lead to the generation of unintentional POPs

Smoke

Inhaling the smoke caused by burning copper cables can be dangerous

Cookware and food packaging

PFOS exposure can also occur through releases from cookware and food packaging that are treated with these chemicals

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