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PCB Lawsuit FAQ: What Is PCB Exposure? [2024 Guide]

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What is PCB Exposure? Let's Discuss.

Question:  What is PCB exposure?

Answer:  PCB exposure occurs when an individual comes into contact with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) via inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or other pathways.

On this page, we’ll discuss this question in further depth, sources and health effects linked to PCB exposures, an overview of PCB Lawsuits, and much more.

PCB Exposure Health Effects and Risks

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have long been recognized as hazardous substances that have the potential to cause serious harm to human health.

While these toxic substances were banned for manufacturing and new uses in the 1970s, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may still remain in certain products, industrial settings, electrical equipment, and more.

PCB exposure can occur through various sources, leading to many health concerns.

While the use and production of PCBs have been banned for decades, these toxic substances continue to pose risks to human health.

What is PCB Exposure

Our law firm is currently investigating PCB exposures in St. Louis, MO school buildings.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to PCBs and suffered harmful health effects, you may be eligible to file a PCB lawsuit.

Contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for the PCB lawsuit instantly.

Individuals exposed to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are reported to have suffered serious health effects and abnormal responses in the immune system and endocrine system.

Our lawyers are currently investigating lawsuits for individuals exposed to PCBs in St. Louis area school buildings.

Reach out to our team with any questions you may have about PCB Lawsuits, how PCBs affect human health, and more.

We’re here to help you.

Table of Contents

Understanding Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine atoms.

PCBs were widely used in electrical equipment like transformers and capacitors, fluorescent lights, hydraulic fluids, and as additives in paints, plasticizers, and sealants due to their non-flammability and chemical stability.

Understanding Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs have no known taste or smell, with a range in consistency from thin, light-colored oily liquids to yellow or black waxy solids.

PCBs can also exist as vapor in the air.

The dangers of PCBs include their potential to cause cancer, along with adverse effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.

PCBs persist in the environment for long periods and can accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals.

Despite their ban, PCBs remain a global environmental contaminant, necessitating careful disposal and ongoing monitoring.

The Dangers of Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are part of a group of persistent organic pollutants called chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons are a diverse group of organic compounds, created by substituting hydrogen atoms in hydrocarbons with chlorine.

Chlorination significantly changes the original hydrocarbon’s properties.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons have been used in a variety of applications due to their properties:

  • Solvents: Used in industrial cleaning, degreasing, and in chemical processing.
  • Pesticides: Many insecticides, like DDT, are chlorinated hydrocarbons.
  • Plastics and Synthetic Rubber: They are used in the production of PVC and other synthetic materials.
  • Refrigerants and Propellants: Previously used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and aerosol sprays.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons are known for their toxicity, posing serious health risks such as cancer, reproductive issues, and nervous system damage.

Additionally, their chemical stability leads to environmental concerns — they are:

  • Persistent;
  • Not breaking down easily in nature; and
  • They accumulate in living organisms’ tissues.

This bioaccumulation can result in biomagnification, where the concentration of these substances increases up the food chain, causing long-term ecological harm.

Where and Why Were PCBs Used?

PCBs were widely popular in industrial and commercial applications from the 1930s through the 1970s.

They were primary ingredients in coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment such as transformers, capacitors, and other industrial applications.

Their electrical insulating properties made them ideal for these purposes, as they were non-flammable and heat-resistant.

PCBs were also present in other products such as carbonless copy paper, flame-retardants, dyes, and plasticizers.

However, the production, use, and disposal of PCBs have been linked to severe health concerns.

PCBs accumulate in the environment and enter the food chain, eventually reaching humans.

Exposure to PCBs has been associated with various health effects, including cancer, reproductive issues, neurological disorders, and immune system dysfunction.

PCB Exposure: An Overview

Due to advocacy campaigns and mounting scientific evidence, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned for manufacturing under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

However, as mentioned earlier, these chemicals persist in the environment and can still be found today in buildings, electrical equipment, and other settings.

PCB exposure refers to the act of coming into contact with these toxic chemicals in the environment, buildings, electrical equipment, or other pathways such as prolonged exposure or occupational exposure.

PCB Exposure_ An Overview

Exposure can occur through various pathways, including inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact.

Understanding exposure is crucial because it is the first step in evaluating the potential risks and health consequences.

The health effects of PCB exposure depend on various factors, including the level and duration of exposure; the individual’s age, gender, and overall health; and other environmental factors.

People in certain occupations, such as electrical workers, metalworkers, and chemical plant employees, may be at a higher risk of PCB exposure due to the nature of their work.

However, anyone can potentially come into contact with PCBs through contaminated food, water, or air.

Through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set regulations to minimize PCB exposures and banned the production, processing, and distribution of PCBs in 1976.

The EPA warns that people may still be exposed to PCBs through various sources, including products and materials manufactured before the ban, contaminated food and water, old building materials, and products such as fluorescent lights and electrical equipment.

In the United States, most commercial PCB mixtures are recognizable by their industrial trade names, such as Arochlor.

Common Sources of PCB Exposure

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants, and exposure to them can occur through various common sources.

These primarily include the consumption of contaminated food, especially fish, meat, and dairy products from areas with known PCB pollution.

Additionally, occupational exposure in industries dealing with old electrical equipment or in waste management is significant.

Residing near contaminated sites or facilities that historically used or produced PCBs can also lead to higher exposure levels.

The following sections will detail each of these sources, providing a deeper understanding of how PCB exposure typically occurs in our environment.

Common Sources Of PCB Exposure

Schools and Older Buildings

Buildings constructed before the ban on PCBs may contain materials such as caulk, insulation, and electrical equipment that contain PCBs.

Deterioration of these materials can release PCBs into the indoor air, potentially exposing occupants, particularly in schools.

Old fluorescent light fixtures and electrical equipment which contained PCBs often went un-replaced for decades after the ban on manufacturing.

PCB-containing fluorescent lighting ballasts and other building materials might still in use in certain buildings, potentially exposing individuals to PCBs.

Our law firm is currently investigating PCB exposures from PCB-containing fluorescent lighting ballasts and electrical devices.

PCB capacitors within these lighting ballasts can deteriorate, putting children and faculty at risk of severe health effects.

Contaminated Water and Soil

One of the primary sources of PCB exposure is contaminated water and soil.

PCBs can leach into groundwater and accumulate in sediment, contaminating drinking water sources.

Additionally, PCB-contaminated soil can pose risks to individuals, especially when it comes into contact with the skin or is ingested inadvertently.

Contaminated Food

Another significant source of exposure is through the consumption of contaminated food.

PCBs tend to bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish.

PCBs accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish and can ultimately find their way into human bodies.

While PCB-contaminated fish are a significant concern, other foods such as meat, dairy products, and vegetables may also contain PCBs.

As we’ve established, PCBs and chlorinated hydrocarbons can biomagnify as they move up the food chain, becoming more potent as they move from plant to animal.

Biomagnification essentially means that PCB concentrations are higher in organisms higher in the food chain.

Industrial Workplaces

Historically, industrial workplaces have been a hotspot for PCB exposure.

Employees working in facilities that manufactured PCBs, or used or manufactured PCB-containing equipment were at risk of being exposed to PCBs through the air or direct skin contact.

Even after the ban, workers involved in demolishing or renovating older buildings containing PCBs can still be exposed.

Common exposure to PCBs happens during routine servicing and rebuilding of PCB transformers, which can result in workplace and environmental contamination.

Living Near Hazardous Waste Sites

People living near hazardous waste sites or landfills where these chemicals were disposed of in the past may be at risk of exposure to PCBs.

According to guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on remedial actions for PCB contamination, PCBs themselves are not very mobile, but when coupled with oily liquids or other chemicals, they can easily make their way through soil and into groundwater.

PCBs leaching into soil and groundwater can contaminate nearby residential and agricultural areas.

Those who lived near industrial plants that manufactured PCBs or used PCBs in the manufacturing of other products may also have an increased risk of exposure to PCBs through air pollution and other forms of contamination.

Breast Milk

Breast milk might also be a source of PCB exposure.

Since PCBs accumulate in body fat, they can be transferred from a mother to her child through breast milk.

This issue is of particular concern for infants and young children, as their bodies are still developing and are more vulnerable to harmful PCB health effects.

Health Effects of PCB Exposure

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic chemicals previously used in numerous products but now known for their health hazards.

Exposure to PCBs, often through contaminated food, air, or water, can lead to various health issues.

Short-term exposure might cause skin conditions and eye irritation, while long-term or high-level exposure has been associated with more severe problems, including liver damage, neurobehavioral and immunological changes, and increased cancer risk.

Health Effects Of PCB Exposure

Some of the potential health consequences of PCB exposure include:

  • Liver cancer
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Neurological disorders
  • Reproductive issues
  • Birth defects
  • Other health effects

Liver Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified PCBs as a Group 1 human carcinogen.

This classification means that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that PCBs can cause cancer in humans, particularly liver cancer.

Several studies, including animal and human research, have linked PCB exposure to an increased risk of liver cancer and liver damage.

Immune System Dysfunction

PCB exposure can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and diseases.

This issue is a significant concern, especially in children and individuals with compromised immune systems.

PCBs might also cause autoimmune disorders, where the immune system attacks healthy cells.

Endocrine Disruption

PCBs can disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates hormones in the body.

This disruption can lead to various health issues, including reproductive problems and developmental delays.

PCBs can also affect the thyroid gland and upset the balance of thyroid hormone levels, which may lead to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Neurological Effects

Evidence suggests that PCB exposure may lead to neurological issues, affecting cognitive function, behavior, and learning abilities.

A study of people who consumed PCB-contaminated fish for an extended period showed neurobehavioral alterations, especially in newborns.

PCBs may also impact the developing nervous system in fetuses, leading to developmental delays and other neurological problems.

Reproductive Issues

PCBs can interfere with the reproductive system, leading to issues such as infertility and hormonal imbalances.

In particular, men exposed to PCBs may experience various male reproductive health problems, such as decreased sperm quality and quantity, sperm DNA integrity, and circulating reproductive hormone levels.

Birth Defects

Prenatal PCB exposure can result in birth defects, such as decreased birth weight and more.

Babies born to women exposed to PCBs during pregnancy may have lower birth weights and a significant decrease in gestational age.

Other Health Effects

Exposure to PCBs may also lead to other adverse health effects, such as:

  • Skin Complications: PCBs can cause skin irritation, rashes, and acne-like skin conditions, especially in individuals who come into direct contact with the chemicals, contaminated soil, or contaminated water.
  • Respiratory Issues: Breathing in PCB-contaminated air may lead to respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Eye Problems: PCBs may cause eye irritation, redness, and blurred vision when they come in contact with the eyes.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Ingesting food or water contaminated with PCBs can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: PCB exposure may increase the risk of high blood pressure, leading to other health issues such as heart disease and stroke.

The extent and severity of these health consequences may vary depending on the duration and level of PCB exposure.

Duration and Levels of Exposure to PCBs

PCB exposure can occur in various ways, and the duration and level of exposure play a significant role in determining or assessing health outcomes.

The impact of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on human health is closely tied to both the duration and levels of exposure.

As we’ve mentioned, PCBs can accumulate in the environment and in human tissue over time.

Short-term exposure to high levels of PCBs may lead to immediate health effects, whereas long-term exposure, even at lower levels, can have cumulative and potentially more serious consequences.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for assessing risks and implementing effective public health strategies to mitigate the impacts of PCB exposure.

Duration And Levels Of Exposure To PCBs

Acute Exposure to PCBs

Acute exposure refers to short-term, high-level exposure to PCBs.

This exposure can result from accidents or incidents like PCB spills or fires involving PCB containing materials.

Acute exposure can lead to immediate health effects and, in some cases, life-threatening conditions.

Chronic Exposure to PCBs

Chronic exposure, on the other hand, involves long-term, low-level exposure to PCBs.

This type of exposure is more common and may occur over months or years.

Our law firm is currently investigating long-term and chronic exposure to PCBs in school buildings that used lighting fixtures which contained PCBs.

Chronic exposure can lead to various health problems that may not become apparent until later in life, making it essential to address the issue promptly.

How Varying Levels of PCB Exposure Influence the Severity of Health Outcomes

The severity of health outcomes resulting from PCB exposure often depends on the level and duration of exposure.

Generally, the higher the level and longer the exposure time, the more severe the health effects are.

However, individual factors such as age, overall health status, and genetics also play a crucial role in determining how an individual will respond to PCB exposure.

What is the PCB Exposure Lawsuit?

Several PCB lawsuits have been filed against companies and entities responsible for manufacturing, using, or disposing of PCBs.

Our law firm is currently investigating PCB exposures in St. Louis, Missouri school buildings.

The PCB Lawsuit specifically regarding school buildings that contained fluorescent lighting ballasts and construction materials manufactured with PCBs seeks to hold responsible parties accountable for the harm PCB exposure has caused.

These lawsuits aim to address the contamination of school environments and the potential health risks posed to students, teachers, and other occupants.

The PCB lawsuit targets may include the manufacturers of PCB-containing products, entities responsible for PCB disposal, and other potentially liable parties.

Ultimately, these lawsuits aim to seek justice for individuals who have suffered health consequences due to PCB exposure and to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions or inactions.

Previous PCB Lawsuits typically claim negligence, product liability, and environmental violations.

Plaintiffs in these cases assert that responsible parties should have taken measures to prevent PCB exposure and failed to do so.

The lawsuits also seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damage from PCB exposure.

What Is The PCB Exposure Lawsuit

If you or a loved one were exposed to PCBs in a St. Louis school building and subsequently developed health issues, you may be eligible to file a PCB Lawsuit claim.

Contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for the PCB Lawsuit instantly.

TorHoerman Law: Investigating PCB Exposures

Polychlorinated biphenyls are dangerous and toxic substances that have been linked to numerous adverse health effects, including cancer.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been exposed to PCBs in a school environment or elsewhere, it’s crucial to consult with experienced legal professionals specializing in PCB exposure cases.

The expert attorneys at TorHoerman Law can help you understand your rights, assess your claim, and guide you through the legal process if you qualify.

Contact TorHoerman Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for the PCB lawsuit instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the health effects of PCB exposure?

    PCB exposure can lead to severe health issues.

    Possible health effects of PCB exposure include:

    • Cancer Risk: Increased risk of certain types of cancer, especially liver and skin cancers.
    • Immune System Impairment: Disruption in immune function, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and diseases.
    • Reproductive Issues: Adverse effects on reproductive health, including reduced fertility and alterations in sex hormones.
    • Neurological Effects: Potential impacts on brain function, leading to cognitive impairments and developmental delays, particularly in children.
    • Endocrine Disruption: Interference with hormone function, affecting thyroid and other hormonal systems.
    • Skin Conditions: Development of skin conditions such as chloracne, characterized by severe acne and cysts.
    • Liver Damage: Potential for liver damage and changes in liver function, sometimes leading to liver diseases.

    The severity of these effects may vary depending on the level and duration of exposure.

  • What should I do if I suspect PCB exposure?

    If you believe you have been exposed to PCBs, seek medical attention immediately.

    It’s also essential to consult with experienced legal professionals who can assess your case and guide you through seeking compensation for any health problems or damages that PCB exposure has caused.

  • What are PCBs, and why are they hazardous?

    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are artificial chemicals used in various industrial applications.

    They are hazardous due to their toxicity and potential to cause serious health problems, including cancer, immune system dysfunction, and developmental issues.

    PCBs are notorious for their persistent nature, remaining in the environment and accumulating in the human body over prolonged periods.

    This durability of PCBs contributes to their extensive environmental footprint, often leading to long-term exposure risks for both wildlife and humans.

  • How can someone be exposed to PCBs?

    People are exposed to PCBs through various means, including:

    1. Deteriorating Building Materials: Older buildings may contain PCBs in materials like fluorescent lights, electrical devices, caulk and paint, and more, which can release these compounds into the environment as they degrade.
    2. Contaminated Water and Soil: Often a result of industrial runoff or improper disposal practices, leading to PCBs entering local water sources and soil.
    3. Consumption of Contaminated Food: Primarily through fish and other seafood harvested from polluted waters, which can accumulate high levels of PCBs.
    4. Workplace Exposure: Particularly in industries involving electrical equipment and construction materials, where PCBs were commonly used in the past.
    5. Breastfeeding: Infants can be exposed to PCBs through breast milk, as these compounds can accumulate in the fatty tissues and are persistent in the human body.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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