Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs)
happens mostly from eating contaminated
foods or breathing contaminated work place
air. High exposure to PCBs can damage the
skin, eyes, and lungs. PCBs have been found
in at least 349 of 1.300 National Priorities
List (NPL) sites identified by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA). To find out if
you live near a NPL site, or if the commercial
building you are planning to buy is a NPL
site, contact A.Q.
Management & Control, Inc.
What are Polychlorinated
are a group of industrial chemicals that
share a common structure. They are only
liquids or solids, clear to light yellow
in color, and with no smell or taste. They
don't occur naturally in the environment.
Arocolor is a popular trade name of a commercial
don't burn easily. In the past, they were
widely used as coolant, insulating material,
and lubricants in electrical equipment like
transformers and capacitors. The U.S. stopped
making them in 1977 because of the health
effects associated with exposure. As levels
in the environment increased, the potential
for harmful effects increased.
products may still contain PCBs. These products
include old fluorescent lighting fixtures,
electrical devices or appliances with PCB
capacitors, old microscope oil, and hydraulic
What happen to PCBs when
they enter the environment?
enter air as solid or liquid aerosol or
vapor and can stay in air more than 10
in air, they can travel long distances
in the wind.
move from air to soil and water when it
snows or rains.
stick tightly to soil particles; a small
amount dissolves in water.
take several years to break down to soil.
are stored in the bodies of fish and seafood.
in fish can be many thousands of times
higher than levels in water.
How might I be exposed to
workplace air (indoor air around electrical
parts or outdoor air at waste sites).
water, skin contact with soil, or breathing
air that is contaminated from nearby waste
fatty foods such as fish, seafood, dairy,
or fatty meats contaminated with PCBs.
milk from mothers exposed to PCBs.
How can PCBs affect my health?
of what we know about the human health effects
of PCBs comes from studies on workers. Levels
in the work place are usually much higher
thanplaces. Workers are exposed to PCBs
from breathing air and contact with their
to PCBs at levels found in the work place
and over a long may cause harmful effects
to the skin (acne, rashes, and coloring
of the nails and skin) and eyes (redness,
burning, irritation, and discharge). PCBs
in the diet of animals produced similar
effects. PCBs may also irritate the nose
skin contact to PCBs in rabbits cause liver,
kidney, and skin damage. A single, large
exposure to skin cause death in rabbits.
Rats and other animals that breathed very
high levels of PCBs over several months
had liver and kidney damage. It is not clear
if these effects would happen in people
at similar levels of exposure.
that ate large amounts of PCBs for short
period had mild liver damage; some died.
Smaller amounts over several weeks or months
caused liver, stomach, and thyroid gland
injuries, anemia, acne, and reduced the
ability to have offspring. Similar effects
occurred in different laboratory animals.
How likely are PCBs to cause
Department of Health and Human Services
(1991) has determine that PCBs may reasonable
be anticipated to be carcinogens. This is
based on animal studies. Studies in workers
do not provide enough information to know
with any certainty if PCBs cause cancer
there a medical test to show whether I've
been exposed to PCBs?
are available for PCBs in blood, body fat,
and breast milk. Blood test are the best
method for detecting recent exposure to
large amounts. These test are not routinely
performed at your doctor's office.
levels in your body fluids indicate exposure
to high levels of PCBs. These test can't
determine the exact amount of type of PCBs,
how long you were exposed, or if you will
develop harmful health effects. Most people
have small but measurable amounts of PCBs
in their blood, fat, and breast milk.
the federal government made recommendations
to protect human health?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
recommends PCBs levels in lakes and streams
be no higher than 0.001 parts of PCB per
billion parts of water (0.001 ppb) to prevent
cancer. PCBs in drinking water should not
be in higher than 4 milligrams per liter
of water (4 mg/L) for adults, and 1 mg/L
for children to prevent non-cancer harmful
effects. EPA regulates the transport, storage,
disposal of PCBs. EPA limits the amount
of PCBs in publicly owned waste water treatment
plants, and requires industry to report
release of 1 pound or more.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires
milk, eggs, other dairy products, poultry
fat, fish, shellfish, and infant foods to
contain no more than 0.2-3 parts of PCBs
per million parts of food (0.2-3 ppm) to
prevent non-cancer harmful effects.
National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health (NIOSH) recommends workers not
breath air with more than 0.001 milligram
of PCBs per cubic meter of air (0.001 mg/m3)
for a 10-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) requires work place exposure limits
of 0.5 mg/m3 (54 percent chlorine) or 1
mg/m3 (42 percent chlorine) for an 8-hour
workday to protect workers from noncancer
harmful health effects.
Where can I get more information?
the local occupational and environmental
health clinic. Their specialist can recognize,
evaluate, and treat illness resulting from
exposure to hazardous substances. You can
also contact your community or state health
or environmental quality department. If
you have any more questions or concerns,
& Control for further information.
Carcinogen: Substance that can cause cancer.
PPM: Parts per million. Milligram (Mg):
On thousandth of a gram.