What are PCBs?
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are chemicals that were manufactured in the United States from 1929 until they were banned in 1979. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States prior to 1977. PCBs have many properties that are useful in manufacturing. They were commonly used in building materials. These materials were widely used in construction projects in the 1950s–1970s, a period when many school buildings were built in the U.S. to accommodate Baby Boom children.
Why were PCBs banned?
Even though they were banned more than 35 years ago, PCBs are still of concern because:
- they have a number of health effects.
- they can be stored in our bodies for a long time.
- they break down very slowly in the environment.
We are still learning about all the ways that PCBs may affect our health. Some of the health effects that may be related to PCB exposure include:
- neurodevelopment problems in children such as lowered IQ, ADHD
- problems in the immune and endocrine systems
Young children are at higher risk for exposure and health problems from PCBs compared with adults.
PCBs in Schools Fact Sheet
You can read more about PCBs in schools in our FACT SHEET: POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBs) IN SCHOOLS: How children are exposed, health risks, and tips to reduce exposure.
Resources: PCBs in Schools
- ATSDR: Public Health Statement: PCBs
- EPA: PCBs
- EPA Fact Sheet on Practical Actions for Reducing Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Schools and Other Buildings
- Exposure Levels for Evaluation of PCBs in Indoor School Air
- Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts (FLBs) in School Buildings
- Fluorescent ballasts removal:
- Caulk removal
- The ABCs of PCBs: A Toxic Threat to America’s Schools – Report prepared by the Office of Senator Edward J. Markey, October 2016
- Green Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting: A Toolkit for Early Care and Education
- American Industrial Hygiene Association: White Paper: PCBs in the Built Environment
- NIEHS Superfund Research Program Webinar: PCBs in Schools
- Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit: PCBs in Schools
- PCBS in Schools.org
- Collaborative on Health and the Environment: PCBs in Schools — Still a Problem?