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Beware of PCBs! (Poly-Chlorinated BiPhenyls)

  • February 2024
  • Number of views: 429
  • Article rating: No rating

Dale Hamil
Technical Education Committee Member
Illinois Electric Works

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manmade chemicals. They are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, with little or no smell or taste, and they are stable mixtures that are resistant to extreme temperature and pressure. The primary company that made PCBs in the United States was Monsanto Inc., mainly using the name Aroclor; however, many companies attached their own brand names, a list of which can be found at the bottom of this article article.

Polychlorinated biphenyls were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids in transformers, oil filled switches, capacitors, electromagnets, cutting fluids for machining operations and in heat transfer fluids. They were even used in some carbonless copy paper. Oil-filled bushings in transformers over 69KV are known to often contain PCBs. Due to the 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.

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