Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

• PCBs are universally banned in Europe and the US

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic organic chemicals that were manufactured for use in various industrial and commercial applications - including oil in electrical and hydraulic equipment, and plasticisers in paints, plastics and rubber products - because of their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulation properties.

Due to PCBs' environmental toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant, PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.

In the UK, closed uses of PCBs in new equipment were banned in 1981, when nearly all UK PCB synthesis ceased, but closed uses in existing equipment containing in excess of 5 litres of PCBs were not stopped until December 2000.


PCBs persistence in the environment

If you can get around the rather irritating voice over, this is a useful primer to the role of PCBs in the environment.