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C-FERST Issue Profile: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine. PCBs were manufactured in the U.S. from 1929 until manufacturing was banned in 1979.

PCBs were used in many types of products including transformers, capacitors, switches, electromagnets, motor and hydraulic oil, insulation, adhesives, oil-based paint, caulking, plastics, carbonless copy paper and floor finish. Even though U.S. manufacturing of PCBs has been banned since 1979, they can still be released into the environment today from sources such as poorly maintained hazardous waste sites, illegal or improper dumping, leaks or releases from electrical transformers containing PCBs and burning waste.

Because PCBs do not readily break down, they can remain for long periods and can accumulate in organisms such as plants and fish. PCBs can cause cancer and have a number of other negative health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, EPA regulates PCBs by implementing reporting, record-keeping, manifesting and testing requirements related to PCBs.

To learn more about PCBs and what EPA is doing to help protect your community, visit the links below.