PCBs Overview

Polychlorinated Biphenyls are a class of synthetic organic chemicals. Since 1930 PCBs were used for a variety of industrial uses (mainly as dielectric fluids in capacitors and transformers but also as flame retardants, ink solvents, plasticizers, etc.) because of their chemical stability. PCBs are fire resistant, have a low electrical conductivity, high resistance to thermal breakdown and a high resistance to oxidants and other chemicals. When researches in the 1970s found out that these characteristic that made them a popular additive represented a serious threat to human health and the environment, their production was gradually stopped. PCBs are considered to be immunotoxic and affect reproduction. Adverse effects associated to the exposure of PCBs are damage to the immune system, liver, skin, reproductive system, gastrointestinal tract and thyroid gland.

Around 1.7 million tonnes of PCBs were produced between 1929 and 1989 and a lot of the equipment containing PCBs is still in use somewhere or stocked awaiting final disposal. As PCBs once released into the environment do not break down but travel over long distances and continue to pose health risks to humans, it is important to remove them from use and destroy existing stockpiles. Existing PCBs can be destroyed through the breaking of their molecular bonds by the input of either chemical or thermal energy. The most common method is high temperature incineration, though other non-incinerative methods like declorination exist.

PCBs Hour Glass - Progress towards the 2028 target of the Stockholm Convention

This hour glass shows the intended progress by the Stockholm Convention in achieving the goal of environmentally sound management (ESM) of PCBs waste by 2028. The figures presented are an approximation of the global quantities of PCBs and do not necessarily reflect the real situation.
The scenario presented in the future is the consideration of the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention and does not reflect the views of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
• Upper section: Shows the approximate quantities of PCBs oils and contaminated equipment that are still in use or PCB wastes that are not yet managed in an environmentally sound manner. An assumption is made regarding the progressive reduction of this figure in the future. Other pertinent information toward achieving the targets of the Stockholm Convention on PCBs is also provided.
• Lower section: Shows the corresponding quantities of PCB oils and contaminated equipment that have been disposed and also of PCB wastes that are now managed in an environmentally sound manner. Other pertinent information toward achieving the targets of the Stockholm Convention on PCBs is also provided.

Progress towards the 2028 target of the Stockholm Convention

This hour glass shows the intended progress by the Stockholm Convention in achieving the goal of environmentally sound management (ESM) of PCBs waste by 2028. The figures presented are an approximation of the global quantities of PCBs and do not necessarily reflect the real situation.

Click on the image to enlarge it and then place your cursor over a given date to receive relevant information.

The scenario presented in the future is the consideration of the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention and does not reflect the views of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.

• Upper section: Shows the approximate quantities of PCBs oils and contaminated equipment that are still in use or PCB wastes that are not yet managed in an environmentally sound manner. An assumption is made regarding the progressive reduction of this figure in the future. Other pertinent information toward achieving the targets of the Stockholm Convention on PCBs is also provided.

• Lower section: Shows the corresponding quantities of PCB oils and contaminated equipment that have been disposed and also of PCB wastes that are now managed in an environmentally sound manner. Other pertinent information toward achieving the targets of the Stockholm Convention on PCBs is also provided.