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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Feb;23(3):2033-41. doi: 10.1007/s11356-015-4828-5. Epub 2015 Jun 14.

Evaluation of PCB sources and releases for identifying priorities to reduce PCBs in Washington State (USA).

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Washington Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA, 98504-7600, USA.
Washington Department of Ecology, Spokane, WA, 99205-1295, USA.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitously distributed in the environment and produce multiple adverse effects in humans and wildlife. As a result, the purpose of our study was to characterize PCB sources in anthropogenic materials and releases to the environment in Washington State (USA) in order to formulate recommendations to reduce PCB exposures. Methods included review of relevant publications (e.g., open literature, industry studies and reports, federal and state government databases), scaling of PCB sources from national or county estimates to state estimates, and communication with industry associations and private and public utilities. Recognizing high associated uncertainty due to incomplete data, we strived to provide central tendency estimates for PCB sources. In terms of mass (high to low), PCB sources include lamp ballasts, caulk, small capacitors, large capacitors, and transformers. For perspective, these sources (200,000-500,000 kg) overwhelm PCBs estimated to reside in the Puget Sound ecosystem (1500 kg). Annual releases of PCBs to the environment (high to low) are attributed to lamp ballasts (400-1500 kg), inadvertent generation by industrial processes (900 kg), caulk (160 kg), small capacitors (3-150 kg), large capacitors (10-80 kg), pigments and dyes (0.02-31 kg), and transformers (<2 kg). Recommendations to characterize the extent of PCB distribution and decrease exposures include assessment of PCBs in buildings (e.g., schools) and replacement of these materials, development of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to contain PCBs, reduction of inadvertent generation of PCBs in consumer products, expansion of environmental monitoring and public education, and research to identify specific PCB congener profiles in human tissues.


Caulk; Inadvertent generation; PCBs; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Sources; Washington State

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