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
  • cancer
  • 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

PCBs in Schools (PDF)

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.

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PCBs in Schools Poster

Managing PCBs in Schools (PDF)

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