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Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of 209 chemical compounds. There are no known natural sources of PCBs. PCBs are no longer manufactured in the United States, but were used in the past as flame resistant materials, electrical insulators, heating coils, caulking compounds and various other materials. PCBs may enter the environment during manufacture, leakage of old equipment or the leaching from landfills. PCBs are chemically stable and remain in the environment for long periods of time. Once in the environment they accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and accumulate through the food chain. PCBs can cause serious health problems in children. Exposure during a child’s developmental years can result in reduced IQ, developmental, attention and behavioral problems.

    Fact: More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were produced in the United States before production was halted. Their production was halted by the federal government in 1977.1

    Fact: Although breast milk remains the healthiest choice for most babies, a study reported in the November 10, 2001 issue of The Lancet detected small but measurable damage after birth from ongoing exposure to PCBs in breast milk. Among breastfed babies, those with more PCBs in the milk had more damage. Unless the mother has extreme exposure to toxins at home, work, or through her diet, breast milk - even with the potential of low levels of chemicals - has tremendous protective qualities that outweigh potential risks. 2

    Fact: PCBs have been shown to trigger a variety of health effects in animals, including cancer and adverse effects on the immune system, reproductive system, endocrine system and nervous system. Studies in humans support evidence for potential cancer-causing and non-carcinogenic effects as well. PCBs can cause different but interrelated health effects that harm several systems of the body. 3

Click Here for the NY State Fact Sheet on PCBs




1 EPA -

2 Alan Greene, M.D., FAAP -

3 EPA, "Health Effects of PCBs," accessed 07-30-07.  

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