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polychlorinated biphenyls (pcb)


PCBs are a group of man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine.  PCBs were manufactured in North America from 1929 until they were banned in 1979.  They have a wide range of consistencies from thin, light-coloured liquids to black waxy solids. PCBs were used in hundreds of applications due to their chemical stability, high boiling point, non-flammability and electrical insulating properties. Products that may contain PCBs include:

  • coolant fluids in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment

  • oil used in motors and hydraulic systems

  • older fluorescent light ballasts

  • electrical cable insulation

  • thermal insulation materials including fibreglass, felt, foam and cork

  • adhesives and tapes

  • caulking, sealants, grout and joint materials

  • asphalt roofing and tar paper

  • plastics, rubbers

  • paints, varnishes, lacquers, floor finish

PCBs do not readily break down in the environment and therefore, everyone is exposed to small amounts mostly as a food contaminant and to a lesser degree through air, water and soil. Although these low levels are unlikely to cause adverse health effects they can accumulate in the human body and health effects may develop over time.

Exposure to PCBs at more significant levels can result from:

  • spills or leaks from electrical equipment

  • servicing of older electrical equipment

  • release PCB-containing manufactured products during building renovation or demolition activities

  • uncontrolled fires of PCB-containing equipment (toxic dioxins and furans are released which are more harmful that the PCBs)

  • improper disposal, transport and poorly managed waste facilities

The potential health effects of PCB exposure varies depending on many factors but can range from a severe form of acne, swelling of eyelids, discoloration of nails and skin to cancer as well as immune, reproductive, neurological, and endocrine disorders.

Current regulations ban the manufacturing and import of PCBs, and set strict requirements for phasing out their use in older electrical applications. Federal and Provincial regulations provide definitions for what constitutes a PCB-containing liquid and solid and define requirements for their management including safe handling, storage and disposal.

Access can help you identify and manage PCBs that may be present at your facility by offering you the following services:

  • facility assessments to identify PCB-containing equipment, components, wastes etc.

  • identification of electrical equipment suspected to contain PCBs

  • sampling and testing of dielectric fluids for PCBs

  • assessment of PCB contaminated surfaces due to spills, leaks etc. through strategically designed testing programs

  • indoor air quality assessments

  • identification of PCB wastes

  • preparation of PCB abatement specifications

  • remediation monitoring

  • review of operations for compliance with labeling, storage, reporting requirements and the phase out of PCB-containing equipment to meet end-of-use requirements

  • development and implementation of a PCB management program

Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

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