Environmental Enlightenment #168
By Ami Adini - Reissued September 30, 2014

This is a SHORT, LIGHT and SIMPLE newsletter. Its purpose is to rekindle in the initiated terminology they have once learned, and enlighten the uninitiated on terms they may have heard but never knew the meaning of.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs have been identified as potential human carcinogens at certain levels of exposure.

PCBs persist in the environment and tend to accumulate in food chains with possible adverse effects on animals at the top of the chain, including man.

The source of PCBs is generally related to products or materials manufactured and used prior to the 1980’s.  Potential PCB sources include older dielectric oils commonly used in electrical equipment such as transformers, capacitors, and oil-filled switches. 

PCBs were also commonly used in hydraulic oils and light ballasts manufactured before 1979.


Commercial products containing PCBs were widely distributed between the mid-1950’s and mid-1970’s, and may be present within hydraulic systems and electrical equipment used during this time period.  Contamination problems associated with PCB equipment are generally associated with spills or leakage of PCB fluid.  As a result, PCB becomes distributed to surrounding areas, including floors, walls and equipment pits, or soils in exterior areas.

Ballasts associated with a variety of lighting systems (i.e., fluorescent and mercury-vapor lights constructed prior at 1980) may contain PCB fluids.  Such ballasts are only a concern if they have leaked or been disposed on-site, resulting in a release of PCB materials to the area.  Light ballasts are often removed and disposed during remodeling or demolition.

Because of the historical presence of PCB compounds and equipment at a wide variety of operations, contamination of soils in exterior areas must be considered.  This could be the result of on-site disposal practices, or burying of PCB equipment.  Therefore, the potential for such contamination associated with existing or previous operations should be considered and investigated.

If you run into a specific case, give us a call.  We’ll be happy to discuss it with you.  There is no obligation.

You can find past issues of "Environmental Enlightenment" at www.amiadini.com Wealth of information about environmental site assessments in the real estate transactions and issues concerning assessment and cleanup of contamination in the subsurface soil and groundwater.

Call me if you have any questions. There are no obligations.

Ami Adini
Ami Adini & Associates, Inc.
Environmental Consultants
Underground Storage Tank Experts
818-824-8102; 818-824-8112 fax

Ami Adini is a mechanical engineer, California Registered Environmental Assessor, Level II (Exp.), and president of AMI ADINI & ASSOCIATES, INC. (AA&A), an environmental consulting firm specializing in all phases of environmental site assessments and rehabilitation of contaminated sites. AA&A specializes in practical solutions to environmental concerns using the highest standards of ethics and integrity while providing its clients with maximum return on their investments.