The group of chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is one of the original twelve POPs covered by the Stockholm Convention. They possess properties including longevity, heat absorbance and form an oily liquid at room temperature that is useful for electrical utilities and in other industrial applications.
PCBs were discovered in the early 20th century. As far back as the late 1960’s, poisonings from PCB exposure began to surface. In one incident, over 14,000 persons became ill in Japan from ingesting PCB-contaminated rice bran. Occurrences of PCB toxic effects in birds and other animals are well documented.
The parties to the Stockholm Convention can no longer produce PCBs and are obliged to stop using this chemical. However, existing equipment that contains or is contaminated with PCBs may continue to be used until 2025. To ensure that all PCB uses are ceased by 2025, parties, especially those that are developing countries or countries with economies in transition, will need support:
- To complete national inventories of all PCBs and related contaminated equipment;
- To improve the capacity and increase the knowledge of PCB equipment owners on proper maintenance of equipment to avoid further contamination;
- To establish proper storage of discontinued equipment and to ensure disposal of all the PCB oils and contaminated equipment in an environmentally sound manner.