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What Are PCBs? How Dangerous Are They?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: April 29, 2016

PCB is the acronym for polychlorinated biphenyls, a group of 209 manmade chemicals found in products commonly used by Americans today. Manufacturers like to use PCB because it’s resistant to acids, bases, and heat – the same properties that make it incredibly harmful to the human body and to the environment.

PCBs and Humans

PCBs are ingredients in surface coatings, flame-retardants, paints, inks, adhesives, lubricants, electrical equipment (such as capacitors and transformers), plasticizers, and carbonless duplicating paper. PCBs remain in the atmosphere and the environment for a still-unknown period because the chemicals don’t break down.

One of the few things that PCBs are soluble in is fat. An animal that consumes PCBs in the environment can harbor the chemical in their fat and pass it along the food chain. In industrial areas, researchers found PCB levels in seawater to be about 100 times higher than they were further offshore, and biologists are still finding build-ups from the height of manufacturing decades ago in today’s riverbeds. PCBs in our water result in fish carrying the chemical and then transmitting it to humans.

Home electrical equipment and household items expose humans to PCBs as well. Though it may seem small, those amounts can add up, especially in places that use many electronics. As recently as April 2016, teachers and students of a Malibu district school reported contracting thyroid cancer, thyroid disease, and melanoma due to levels of PCB in their systems. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered reduced use of PCBs, it is still allowable in levels below 50 parts per million in products.

Human health effects with possible links to PCB include:

  • Melanoma,
  • Gall bladder cancer,
  • Liver cancer,
  • Gastrointestinal tract cancer,
  • Biliary tract cancer,
  • Breast cancer,
  • Brain cancer,
  • Skin irritation,
  • Lung irritation,
  • Eye problems,
  • Birth defects,
  • And more.

Due to its cancer-causing chemical makeup, the EPA recognizes PCB as a probable carcinogen and a serious health risk.

PCBs and the Environment

Environmentalists everywhere are outraged about companies continuing to use PCBs in common household items, as well as dumping them into landfills, rivers, and oceans. From 1946-1977, General Electric discharged PCBs into the atmosphere and the PCBs still persist in the environment without breaking down. About 10% of PCBs from 1929 remain in the environment today, in outdoor air, indoor air, seawater, and river sediments.

Because PCBs transfer from animals to humans via the food chain, they pose a serious threat to our health as well as to the environment. Pregnant women who ingest PCBs may bear children who have lower IQs, learning disabilities, and decreased birth weight and head size. PCBs also disrupt hormone function, leading to reduced sperm counts, altered sex organs, and premature puberty.

Inhaling PCBs in outdoor air have led to toxic effects in humans, including nose irritation and eye problems. People exposed to PCBs in the air can suffer from skin rashes and severe acne (chloracne). The dangerous health risks associated with PCBs in the environment have adversely affected thousands because companies irresponsibly dump PCBs or use them in their products.

Have You Been Affected By PCBs?

If you believe you’ve suffered because of PCBs in the air, in a product, or from eating an animal product, you may have a case against the manufacturer. If you’ve been diagnosed with certain types of cancers associated with PCBs, your child was injured due to ingesting PCBs while you were pregnant, or other adverse effects, contact the legal team at Gomez Trial Attorneys today. We have extensive experience handling various personal injury cases, and we know the laws and regulations surrounding the manufacturer and production of PCB. Take a stand against this dangerous manmade chemical and contact us today.






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