PCBs - Polchlorinated bipenyls - Facts, Regulations, Guidance

PCBs - Polchlorinated bipenyls - Facts, Regulations, Guidance


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The Comprehensive PCB Guide:

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The TSCA Act and Implementing Regulations
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which became law in 1976, prohibits the manufacture of polychlorinated biphenyls (commonly known as PCBs), controls the phase-out of their existing uses, and sees to their safe disposal. PCBs are the only chemical class specifically named in TSCA because Congress believed that the chemical and toxicological properties of PCBs posed a significant risk to public health and the environment. (Click here to search, view, or download portions or all of the TSCA Act)

Implementing regulations, are found in 40 CFR Part 761: Some key provisions of the regulations and EPA policies include:

  • assumption of PCBs if not labeled, location and content of PCB labels,
  • visual inspection and recordkeeping for PCBs in use or stored for reuse,
  • other recordkeeping requirements,
  • disposal restrictions on use and burning of used oil containing PCBs,
  • storage for disposal,
  • spill prevention,
  • PCB spill cleanup policy,
  • food and feed restrictions,
  • PCB transformer fire regulations,
  • substitute dielectric fluid,
  • storage container specifications,
  • notification and manifesting rule,
  • EPA policy on physical separation of PCBs,
  • reclassification of transformers,
  • PCB fluorescent light ballast disposal, and
  • PCBs in laboratories.

The PCB Disposal Amendments allow for the import of PCB waste for disposal, as long as certain conditions are met.

Characteristics and Uses of PCBs

PCBs belong to a family of organic compounds known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Key characteristics include: high boiling point, high degree of chemical stability, low flammability, and low electric conductivity. Between 1926-29 and 1977, PCB-containing products were manufactured for use in applications where stable, fire-resistant, heat-transfer properties were demanded. The most extensive use of PCBs occurred in dielectric fluids. Such fluids typically have the following characteristics: a heavy oil appearance, high boiling point, high chemical stability, high flash point, low electrical conductivity, and low water solubility. PCBs were also used as plasticizers and additives in lubricating and cutting fluids. Most PCBs were sold for use as dielectric fluids (insulating liquids) in electric transformers and capacitors. Other uses included heat transfer fluid, hydraulic fluid, dye carriers in carbonless copy paper, plasticizers in paints, adhesives, and caulking compounds, and filters in investment casting wax. Although PCBs are no longer commercially made in the United States, many electric transformers and capacitors once filled with PCBs are still in service. Additionally, PCBs currently are being inadvertently produced as byproducts during the manufacture of certain organic chemicals. PCB Manufacturers and Trade Names lists some of the manufacturers, who made PCBs and the trade names of their products.

Why Are PCBs Harmful to Human Health and the Environment
When released into the environment, PCBs do not easily break apart and form new chemical arrangements (i.e., they are not readily biodegradable). Instead they persist for many years, bioaccumulate, and bioconcentrate in organisms. Well documented tests on laboratory animals show that various levels of PCBs cause reproductive effects, gastric disorders, skin lesions, and cancerous tumors. Exposure to PCBs in humans can cause chloracne (a painful, disfiguring skin ailment), liver damage, nausea, dizziness, eye irritation, and bronchitis.

PCBs may enter the body through the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, and the skin. After absorption, PCBs are circulated in the blood throughout the body and are stored in fatty tissues and a variety of organs, including liver, kidneys, lungs, adrenal glands, brain, heart, and skin. PCBs pervade the environment. Measurable amounts of PCBs have been found in soils, water, fish, milk and human tissue. Want even more detailed information?

PCB Regulatory Guidance

This is such a deep topic, we have another web page devoted to it. Click here to view the PCB regulatory compliance guidance page. We also have a page on thePCB Megarule changes. If you just want the regulations, they are 40 CFR Part 761, available here as a pdf file.

Enforcement Actions
The Seattle Office of EPA conducts inspections, usually at utilities, scrap and salvage dealers, pulp and paper industry, wood product mills, commercial buildings, large universities, and federal facilities. TSCA authorizes civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day per violation and criminal penalties. Where appropriate, EPA may allow early disposal of PCB equipment to mitigate a portion of the penalty.

Who to contact at the EPA?

EPA's Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Office provides information on enforcement statistics, penalty policies, the policy on supplemental environmental projects, the self-disclosure policy, enforcement cases, compliance assistance programs and documents, and numerous other resources concerning enforcement and compliance.

Contact EHSO at EHSO (770) 645-0788 or Dan Duncan at TSCA (206) 553-6693 with questions about the regulations and Mike Watson (206) 553-1072 with questions about health effects.

EPA Regional PCB Information

Complementing the ongoing policy development effort at EPA Headquarters in Washington, EPA maintains 10 Regional Offices to implement Federal environmental programs around the country. These Regional Offices cooperate with Federal, State, interstate, and local agencies, as well as with industry, academic institutions, and other private groups, to ensure that their Region's needs are addressed and that Federal environmental laws are upheld.

Within each Region, the Regional Administrator has designated Regional PCB Coordinators to oversee the development of PCB efforts within the Region. The contact information for these offices are listed below. Choose a Region:

Region 1 - Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Kim Tisa - Regional PCB Coordinator, phone - (617) 918-1527
Marianne Milette - phone - (617) 918-1854, FAX - (617)-918-1810
Region 1 FAX - (617) 918-0527
Region 1 Web Page - Region 1

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Region 2 - New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands
Dave Greenlaw - Regional PCB Coordinator, phone - (732) 906-6817
Ann Finnegan - phone - (732) 906-6177
Dan Kraft - phone - (732) 321-6669
Vivian Chin - phone - (732) 906-6179
John Brogard (Permits) - phone - (212) 637-4162, FAX - 212-637-4437

Region 2 FAX - (732) 321-6788
Region 2 Web Page - Region 2

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Region 3 - Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Kelly Bunker - Regional PCB Coordinator, phone - (215) 814-2177
Scott Rice - phone - (304) 231-0501
Region 3 FAX (215) 814-3114
Region 3 Web Page - Region 3

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Region 4 - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Craig Brown - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (404) 562-8990
Stuart Perry - phone - (404) 562-8980
Region 4 FAX (404) 562-8972
Region 4 Web Page - Region 4

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Region 5 - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
Tony Martig - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (312) 353-2291
John Connell - phone - (312) 886-6832
Priscilla Fonseca - phone - (312) 886-1334
Jean Greensley - (Permit Writer/Geologist) - phone - (312) 353-1171
Steve Johnson - (Permit Writer/Geologist) - phone - (312) 886-1330
Region 5 FAX (312) 353-4788
Region 5 Web Page - Region 5

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Region 6 - Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
Lou Roberts - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (214) 665-7579
Jim Sales (Permits) - phone - (214) 665-6796
Region 6 FAX (214) 665-7446
Region 6 Web Page - Region 6

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Region 7 - Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
Dave Phillippi - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (913) 551-7395
Gene Evans (Permits) - phone - (913) 551-7731
Region 7 FAX (913) 551-7065
Region 7 Web Page - Region 7

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Region 8 - Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming
Dan Bench - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (303) 312-6027
Francis Tran - phone - (303) 312-6036
Region 8 FAX (303) 312-6044
Kim Le - Enforcement - phone - (303) 312-6973, FAX - (303) 312-6409
Region 8 Web Page - Region 8

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Region 9 - Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Guam
Max Weintraub - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (415) 947-4163
Christopher Rollins - phone - (415) 947-4166
Yosh Tokiwa - (415) 947-4172
Region 9 FAX (415) 947-3583
Region 9 Web Page -
Region 9

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Region 10 - Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Dan Duncan - Regional PCB Coordinator - phone - (206) 553-6693
Cathy Massimino - phone - (206) 553-4153
Bernie Pribish - phone - (206) 553-5293
Ray Nye - phone - (206) 553-4266
Region 10 FAX (206) 553-8509
Region 10 Web Page -
Region 10

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Interesting Reads:

THE PREPPER'S CANNING & PRESERVING BIBLE: [13 in 1] Your Path to Food Self-Sufficiency. Canning, Dehydrating, Fermenting, Pickling & More, Plus The Food Preservation Calendar for a Sustainable Pantry

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! Paperback

The Citizens' Guide to Geologic Hazards: A Guide to Understanding Geologic Hazards Including Asbestos, Radon, Swelling Soils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Book: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Paperback

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