What are PCBs?

PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, or a compound that links chlorine, carbon, and hydrogen atoms. These man-made chemicals were used in a number of products before being found to be severely toxic in the 1970s. Among the main uses of PCBs included in surface coatings of buildings, adhesives, paint, and electrical equipment. Because of the commonality of the use of PCBs, at least 10 percent of PCBs produced after 1929 are still in the environment today. This has occurred due to the poor disposal methods in place for PCBs. For example, when PCBs are incinerated or stored in landfills, the chemical releases more harmful toxins that can seep into the water, land, and air.

PCBs have a highly stable molecular structure that causes them to persist in the environment. This persistence affects the health of the plants and animals exposed to the dangerous chemical. In the 1970’s, it was found that PCBs are cancerous and can cause deformities and other serious health complications. This becomes hazardous when the irresponsible disposal of PCBs places the chemicals in direct contact with water, crops, and animals that are later consumed by humans. Consuming poultry, fish, and other contaminated meat is the primary cause of humans having higher levels of PCBs in their bodies.

Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States until the manufacturing of PCBs was made illegal. The main facility this took place at was outside of St. Louis, Missouri. This area currently has the highest rate of fetal death and immature births in the state due to the proximity of the PCB manufacturing plant. Other Monsanto PCBs are directly linked to pollution and contamination of entire cities such as San Diego, California and Anniston, Alabama. These contaminated spaces leave thousands of men, women, and children exposed to potentially fatal diseases.

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