Exposure to PCBs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, are a hazardous man-made chemical that was produced in the United States from 1929-1979. PCBs were primarily used in electrical equipment, insulation, lighting, and adhesives. One of the many dangers of PCBs is the level of exposure humans are susceptible to after PCB manufacturing plants improperly disposed of waste over 50 years. Large manufacturing corporations like Monsanto are responsible for thousands of tons of PCBs still harming the environment today, over 30 years after manufacturing of the unsafe chemical ceased.

The molecular construction of PCBs causes the chemical to resist the natural process of breaking down. This means that PCBs in the environment will persist for years, presenting a danger to the organisms that come into contact with the chemical. Water sources, soil, and animals are susceptible to the dangers PCBs present. Smaller animals, such as fish, are more likely to become contaminated by PCBs and pass on the chemical contamination through consumption by larger animals.

PCBs accumulate and strengthen over time since the molecular structure does not readily break down. This bioaccumulation process increases the health risk in humans that consume fish contaminated with PCBs. One of the possible side effects of exposure to PCBs is cancer. Other potentially life-threatening health concerns that may occur include adverse effects in the immune system, nervous system, and reproductive system.

Surface soils and water sources are also a principal concern for PCB exposure. Monsanto PCBs are responsible for the environmental destruction of Anniston, Alabama, a town in which the citizens are unable to mow their lawns without wearing masks because the PCB concentration in the soil is dangerously high. Other cities have reported high amounts of PCB within their water supply, putting men, women, and children of those contaminated towns at risk.

Exposure to PCBs is a daily occurrence in humans since the prevalence of the chemical was profound before it was deemed unsafe. Even the workplace and other indoor areas may have remnants of PCBs due to use of old fluorescent lights and other electronics made with the chemical. It is important to remain aware of the hazards PCBs may cause and hold the manufacturers responsible for the pollution they produced.

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