The Health Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated Biphenyls or “PCBs” are widely known to cause a number of serious health problems. Studies conducted on animals who have been exposed to PCBs have discovered elevated rates of cancer in animals with exposure to PCBs, as well as a number of non-cancer problems, including a depressed immune system, disrupted reproductive health and nervous system function, as well as an effected endocrine system.

Studies conducted on humans have provided similar results. The cancer and non-cancer results of exposure to PCB may be interconnected, as a depressed immune system and affected endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems can contribute to cancer.


When it comes to classifying something as a carcinogen, the EPA relies on a “weight of proof” method. This means that the more cases there are, the better likelihood there will be that a substance will be classified as a carcinogen. Taking this approach, PCBs have been conclusively identified as a carcinogen in animals and as a “probable” carcinogen in humans.

This substance was first brought to the EPA’s attention in the 1980s, and the first studies were completed in 1987. Peer review of this study agreed that PCBs are likely to be human carcinogens, based on the fact that evidence supports PCBs causing cancer in animals and its potential to cause cancer in humans. While this first study did not take into account different kinds of PCB or how they are mixed, it still stands as one of the best studies into the harmfulness of these substances.

While there is not enough evidence yet to say that PCBs definitely cause cancer in humans, there is enough evidence to suggest it, especially based on the fact that it does cause cancer in animals.

Other Diseases

Because the immune system is vital to the protection of the body and fighting infections, having a depressed immune system is a serious problem. The most widely accepted studies about the effects of PCBs on the immune system were conducted on a number of animals, and show that after exposure to PCBs, across the board, the animals had a decrease resistance to viruses.

In the category of reproductive health, studies have shown that exposure to PCBs affects birth weight, gestational age, conception rates, and live birth rates, all negatively. In that same vein, test subjects that were exposed to PCB from the beginning of life had serious neurological and endocrine impediments, which made it difficult for those subjects to progress at the same rate as test subjects that were not exposed.

Both humans and animals who have been exposed to the substance have difficulty learning and have abnormal thyroid levels, which stunts the individual both mentally and physically.

Lead Dangers Lurk in Unexpected Places

Lead exposure isn’t something that most people worry about today. A century ago, maybe, but not today. What most people don’t know, however, is that lead is still surprisingly common and hides in places you might not expect. Recent lead paint scares, for example, have shown that lead is still widely used today and that a dangerous dose is not actually that difficult to come by. Here are seven places lead may be lurking and what to do about it:

  1. Brass plumbing – If you live in a home built before 1986, you probably have lead in your plumbing. Even if you live in a home built after 1986, you might still be in dangers, as anything made of metal that is less than 8% lead can be labeled as lead-free. You’re going to want to test your water for lead and if you test positively, invest in a filter. 
  1. Lead in your bones – Sounds like science fiction, but if you’ve been exposed to lead, your body might be storing it in your bones and it is probably cycling regularly through your blood. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, as long as that calcium supplement isn’t made from bone.
  1. Renovating your home – Lead paint is common in homes built before 1978, so if you’re doing a renovation, it’s possible to expose yourself to lead dust. If you’re doing major construction, you want to properly protect yourself and maybe even consider sealing off the work area. 
  1. Ceramic dishes – Anything made before 1960 out of ceramic probably has at least a little bit of lead in it. Test your ceramic dishes or switch over to another material to protect yourself.
  1. Community gardens – Because paint chips sometimes make their way into the soil used for community gardens, it’s possible that the soil contains lead. Use topsoil and compost to neutralize it and make sure the pH levels are above 6.5, as that will keep the plants from soaking up too much lead.
  1. Hunting and fishing – If you hunt your own game with lead bullets, you might be eating lead leached from that bullet into the meat. Additionally, fish can sometimes contain high levels of lead, picked up from lures or just from lead-contaminated water. To prevent this, use lead-free bullets when hunting and use sinkers and lures that do not contain lead.
  1. Paint, clay, and chalk – Many art supplies contain lead, which is supposed to improve the brightness of paint, clay, and chalk colors, especially the reds, oranges, greens, and blues. Shiny glazes for pottery are one of the main culprits of lead. To protect yourself, only buy lead-free art supplies and make sure your work space is well ventilated.

Asbestos Awareness

Asbestosis and mesothelioma are more than just scary-sounding words, they are potentially fatal diseases caused by even limited exposure to asbestos fibers.

Asbestos is a tough, heat-resistant mineral that was added to the building materials of many older homes. It can pose health hazards to workers and homeowners who renovate or demolish those homes. The video above shows how asbestos fibers can damage lung tissue and lead to permanent lung disease.

Remember: Always consult a professional when dealing with asbestos, especially regarding the abatement of this potentially deadly mineral.

Cancer Survivor Fears “Dangerous” Asbestos after Finding It in His Garden

Now here’s an interesting story from the world of asbestos.

George McCloud has survived two battles with cancer—and has now found a patch of asbestos in his garden. McCloud lives with his wife on a property in Red Kite in Downley. At the age of seventy-five, after two cancer diagnoses, he discovered asbestos when digging in his garden just over four months ago. The asbestos was promptly reported to the county, and they sent a representative to survey the scene.

Weeks later and McCloud has heard no report from the representative or the housing association. His garden is right next to a footpath, which is frequented by the locals.

In an interview, McCloud said, “My garden used to be a show garden. My son, John, won a competition. We love the garden, but now we’ve found asbestos in it. I have asbestos on my lungs. It can activate what I have already got. I got asbestos when I was in the building trade and I have had two operations to get rid of the cancer. I’ve roped the area off to protect my family and visitors, but there’s a public footpath that runs alongside my house and I can’t be here all the time to warn them.”

Another tell-tale sign of the dangers of asbestos come in the form of a pond that McCloud built beside his garden. The fish that lived in the pond died regularly and there is a high likelihood that asbestos from the garden was causing the deaths of those fish.

The bigger danger, however, is to his family and to those who live in his neighborhood. McCloud has already faced cancer twice and after years of working in that garden, it is very likely that he has been exposed to the dangerous asbestos in the soil.

The Red Kite representatives who originally investigated the asbestos claimed that it was not dangerous, there underneath his garden, but that they will remove it in the near future. The housing association has confirmed this, saying that the material is not hazardous if it is left where it is and that if he wants it removed, under the tenancy agreement, he is obligated to remove it himself. They added that because of the delay in getting back to McCloud about whether or not the asbestos in his garden was a hazard, they will now make sure that it is removed.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

Hazardous Waste and Substances Facts

Chemicals are used to make just about everything we use, from paper, to medicine, to clothing, to gasoline. Chemicals are the building blocks of our world, and while most are perfectly safe to use, there are quite a few, especially made by humans, that can be dangerous, and which need to be disposed of properly, in order to maintain our safety.

What is classified as hazardous waste?

Obviously, not all chemicals are hazardous. Chemical compounds like sodium chloride (table salt), are used every day and are perfectly safe for use to use. Other chemicals are not so safe and can actually harm our health and the environment if not properly disposed of. Some of the most common examples of hazardous waste include batteries, bug spray, and paint. These and other household examples of hazardous waste need to be properly disposed of in order to protect our health and the environment.

What different kinds of hazardous waste exist?

There are essentially four basic kinds of hazardous waste. The first is corrosive, which eats away at some materials, including clothing and skin. These are acids, like those commonly found in batteries. The acids themselves and the vapor from the acid can be dangerous.

The second kind is ignitable. These are substances that easily ignite—examples include paint thinner and gasoline. The vapors are usually irritating, but the flammability is the real danger.

The third kind of hazardous waste is reactive. These substances are less common, but they can still be very dangerous. The most common example is bleach and ammonia. These substances react with one another and create a gas that is extremely deadly.

The fourth and final kind of hazardous waste is toxic. These are chemicals that are designed to kill things, from bugs to weeds to germs, but can also be harmful to humans, whether ingested or absorbed through skin.

Why is hazardous waste dangerous?

Hazardous waste usually enters a person’s system in one of two ways, the first being inhalation. This occurs when a person breathes in the chemical or its vapors. If a chemical gives off a toxic gas, this can be very dangerous, harming the health of the person who breathes in these vapors. Even if the substance is not toxic, vapors or the chemicals that create them can irritate the mouth, throat, and lungs of a person, causing serious health problems.

The second way a person may come into contact with hazardous waste is ingestion. Even if it accidental, ingesting any kind of hazardous waste is extremely dangerous, as many of these chemicals can burn your organs or cause other serious problems.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.