The Dangers of Polychlorinated Biphenyls

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You may have heard about polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but not fully understand what they are or the danger that they may present to you and your family. While PCBs have not been in active use since the end of the 1970s, they are still present in many homes and environments where they can become a health threat.

What are PCBs?

PCBs are man-made chemicals that were used in different applications ranging from inks, paints, flame-retardants, adhesives, surface coatings, and more. They are most commonly associated with electrical equipment and often found in transformers. PCBs are considered dangerous to the environment and to the health and wellbeing of anyone exposed to them for a sufficient period of time.

Created roughly a century ago, about 10% of PCBs are still found in the environment despite having been banned almost 40 years ago. Because the atoms of PCBs, which consists of chlorine, hydrogen, and carbon, may be assembled in different ways, some present a greater threat than others.

Since PCBs are found in so many different locations, people can be exposed to them directly or indirectly from lakes, rivers, and streams that store them in the sediments or when they are exposed to the air and fall as part of precipitation. While some forms of life, including insects, fish, and birds can break down PCBs into less harmful forms, humans cannot.

Although most PCBs were found in electrical equipment, the disposal of the chemicals meant that much of it was absorbed into flowing water and the ground, resulting in food consumption being the primary source of contamination for humans. While PCB levels have dropped considerably since the 1970s, they can still be dangerous over time due given consistent exposure.

Effects of PCBs

There is no singular effect, but PCBs cause an increased risk of cancer, especially in the digestive and lymphatic system. They also may affect fertility in men and women resulting in lower rates of conception. Other minor effects include headaches, numbness, and more frequent occurrences of infections.

The extent of the damage caused by PCBs was recognized in the 1970s, but is still not fully understood, and may cause other complications depending on different factors. It is recommended that when PCBs are detected in equipment, wiring, or other objects within a structure that they be removed as soon as possible.

Cleaning Up PCBs

At Brickley Environmental, we can properly clean and remove polychlorinated biphenyls from your building. An inspection will reveal the extent to which the PCB contamination has occurred, a plan to address the issue, and a cleaning and removal process that ensures all PCBs are properly disposed.

For those who work or live in buildings that were constructed before the 1980s and have never been inspected for the presence of PCBs, this is a good time to find out if there are any present and to have them removed as quickly as possible. The professionals at Brickley Environmental are fully trained and qualified to identify and remove the presence of PCBs from your building which in turn eliminates the danger they present to you and your employees on site.

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