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Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
View a large, informative "PCBs, Mining and Water Pollution" poster
This informative poster, designed to be printed on 11x17 paper, includes PCB properties and uses, consequences of abandonment, health and environmental effects, proposed solutions, and more.
On this page:
Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, and electrical insulating properties, polychorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were used as dielectric fluid in various types of electrical equipment including heat transfer systems, fluorescent lamp ballasts, television sets, and numerous other kinds of electrical appliances. In addition, PCBs were used as plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products, in pigments, dyes, carbonless copy paper and many other applications.
However, it has been discovered that PCBs are also toxic substances that are a hazard to human health and the environment. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals as well as to cause a number of serious noncancer health effects in animals, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. Studies in humans provide supportive evidence for potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs, including negative effects on the intellectual development of children and adults.
Concerned about industrial chemical toxicity and persistence in the environment, Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (Public Law 94-469, October 11, 1976), which included prohibitions on the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of PCBs. Under TSCA, Congress mandated the regulation of PCBs from manufacture to disposal, or from "cradle to grave" throughout the U.S. PCBs are absorbed or bioconcentrate from ocean water into phytoplankton which is the basis of the ocean food chain and produce about 50 percent of the world's oxygen.
Although TSCA prohibited further manufacture, processing and distribution of PCBs, many products containing PCBs are still in use (i.e. PCB-containing electrical equipment). EPA authorizes these uses to continue as long as the equipment is properly monitored and maintained.
You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
PCBs, Mining and Water Pollution
Following are two versions of "PCBs, Mining, and Water Pollution" by Dan Bench, Region 8 PCB Coordinator.
- The paper presented at the Mine Design, Operations and Closure Conference hosted by Montana Tech in May 03 - written for the general public.
- A shortened version of the paper, as it appeared in the London UK Mining Environmental Management, July 03 - tailored for the mining industry. . Reprints are available on request.
- Identification, Management, and Proper Disposal of PCB-Containing Electrical Equipment used in Mines (PDF, 11 pp, 376K)
This paper was presented at the Perumin 29 Convencion Minera in Arequipa, Peru, September 2009; hosted by the Instituto de Ingenieros de Minas del Peru. Recipient of a best paper award.
- Short Course on PCBs In Mines (PDF, 6 pp, 132K)
This is an abridgement of the above paper.
- Cleanup Information Network (CLU-IN) Seminar on September 19, 2012. It can accompany the two above papers. Presented at the Northern Latitudes Workshop in Fairbanks Alaska (April 2011) and the UNEP/Peru govt workshop in Lima Peru, as part of the Best Practices for PCB Management in Mines of South America Initiative (September 2011)
- Same presentation as above, including speakers notes on each slide (PPT)
EPA PCB References
Region 8 PCB Contacts
Dan W. Bench (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Region 8 PCB Coordinator
U.S. EPA, Region 8 (P-P3T)
1595 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80202-1129
800-227-8917 ext. 312-6027