Polychlorinated Bipheynls (PCBs)

PCBs were originally used for various industrial processes and in various products including electrical transformers and capacitors, carbonless copy paper and plastics, and as paint additives and heat exchange fluids (EPA). According to the EPA, exposure to PCBs can potentially result in the following health effects:


  • Cancer in animals and humans
  • Reproductive development harm to a child
  • Endocrine Disruptor (i.e. impacts thyroid hormone levels)
  • Neurological effects
  • And specific organ toxicity in humans such as the liver

Although PCBs have been banned in the US since 1978 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), these chemicals are still present in our environment. First, some PCBs are combustion byproducts of pigment manufacturing and are found in colorants used to tint consumer paints sold throughout the world. Additionally, because these chemicals take so long to break down in the environment, fish in the Great Lakes has bio-accumulated PCBs in their bodies. As a result, bald eagles in the region are known to have high blood-concentrations of PCBs as well. People can also be exposed to PCBs through recycled vinyl flooring, particularly if it has been damaged over time. PCBs were used in PVC wiring and cable insulation until the 1970s. However, this scrap can get recycled into other products, including vinyl floors.


Other ways, PCBs can still be released into the environment from:

  • Poorly maintained hazardous waste sites that contain PCBs
  • Leaks or releases from electrical transformers containing PCBs
  • Illegal or Improper dumping of PCB-containing products into municipal or other landfills not designed to handle hazardous waste, or other areas
  • Incineration of some wastes in municipal and industrial incinerators