PCBs—which include upwards of 200 compounds—are a class of very toxic chemicals ubiquitously found in construction materials and electrical products in many buildings from the 1950s until 1978, when they were phased out. Despite the phase-out, PCBs may be found in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban, such as:
- Transformers and capacitors
- Other electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, reclosers, bushings, and electromagnets
- Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
- Old electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
- Fluorescent light ballasts
- Cable insulation
- Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork
- Adhesives and tapes
- Oil-based paint
- Carbonless copy paper
- Floor finishes
Because PCBs do not easily degrade, they can remain in the environment for long periods of time, accumulating in the environment and infiltrating plants, crops, fish, and small organisms. PCBs ultimately reach those who eat fish and animal products through this bioaccumulation. Because of this, nearly every human being carries some PCB in his/her body, which can also be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy and in breast milk. PCBs can remain in our bodies for many years, the longer we live, the more these toxins can build in our systems, increasing in strength over time.
Some evidence indicates that PCB manufacturers knew of the chemical’s dangers years before the 1979 ban. For example, as far back as 1937, corporate memos from Monsanto, which made Aroclor, a PCB compound, wrote about the links between PCBs and severe skin damage and acute liver atrophy in some employees. Memos from 1954 indicate that Monsanto knew that exposure to “negligible” amounts of PCB could be dangerous over time. Later, in the 1960s, Monsanto’s research confirmed that outflow from its PCB manufacturing plants contained “extremely toxic materials that killed fish in less than 24 hours.” By 1975, despite a number of scientific studies revealing that PCBs were cancer causing, the firm’s testing lab only admitted to PCBs as being “tumorigenic.” That lab was later discredited.
PCBs and the Environment
PCBs were used in electrical transformers that leaked into waterways and soil, creating pollution in locations nationwide. Because PCBs are oily, they were mixed with caulking to create a more flexible compound that was easily mixed with paints and adhesives. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that caulk found around windows and doors in hundreds of schools nationwide may contain PCBs, which can cause cancer.
Before being banned, PCBs contaminated the environment during their manufacture and use in the United States. Although banned, the chemicals have never been cleaned out and continue to be released into our environment in a wide variety of ways, such as via shoddily managed hazardous waste sites, illegal and improper waste dumping, release or leakage from PCB-containing electrical transformers, disposal of PCB-containing consumer products into landfills not meant to take in hazardous waste, and by waste burning at municipal and industrial sites.
PCBs and Human Health
PCBs have also long been known to cause harm to the brain, affecting brain cell development, which can lead to developmental and neurodevelopmental impairments, such as hyperactivity. Low PCB levels can be even more dangerous with studies suggesting that such exposure can affect the ability to learn by negatively impacting dentrite plasticity. Dentrites are neuron components critical to learning and memory; when damaged they are linked to seizure disorders, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and autism.
Tests in utero and neonatally have found PCB affects brain cell development and that PCBs impact brain cell circuits in an area of the brain known to be damaged in people with complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory deficits, developmental delays, and mental retardation. PCBs also affect ryanodine receptors, which can add to neural circuits becoming over-excited.
Legal Help for Victims of PCB Exposure
Reliable medical research shows that high levels of PCBs can cause dangerous, life-threatening diseases, for instance, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Though banned in 1979, these toxic, cancer-causing chemicals are still present in our environment, our food, and even our bodies.
Our PCB lawyers are aggressively investigating the association between PCBs and dangerous, life-threatening diseases. You may be eligible for compensation from the manufacturers who used these toxins in their products. We are currently offering free lawsuit consultations to victims of PCB-related diseases and disorders and their families. If your life has been devastated by PCBs, please fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to discuss your case today.