PCB Analysis

What You Need to Know

PCB’s belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until their manufacture was banned in 1979. They have a range of toxicity and vary in consistency from thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids. Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point, and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products; in pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper; and many other industrial applications.

Commercial Use of PCB’s

Although no longer commercially produced in the United States, PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. Products that many contain PCBs include:

  • Transformers and capacitors
  • Voltage regulators, switches, reclosers, bushings, and electromagnets
  • Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
  • Electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork
  • Cable insulation
  • Adhesives and tapes
  • Oil-based paint
  • Caulking
  • Plastics
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Floor finish

The PCBs used in these products were chemical mixtures made up of a variety of individual chlorinated biphenyl components, known as congeners. Most commercial PCB mixtures are known in the United States by their industrial trade names. The most common trade name is Aroclor.

Health Effects

PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system.


  • Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for Airborne Contaminants as per WAC 296-841 Air Contaminants:
  • Airborne Contaminant TWA (8 Hrs) STEL
  • Chlorodiphenyl (42% Chlorine) (PCB) (Polychlorobiphenyls) 1 mg/m3 3 mg/m3
  • Chlorodiphenyl (54% Chlorine) (PCB) (Polychlorobiphenyls) 0.5 mg/m3 1.5 mg/m3
  • Matrices: Caulking, Paint Chips, Wipes, Air, Soil, Bulk.