PCBs, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, are chemicals that were developed and used in machinery and industrial production. They were also commonly used as additives in coolants as well as electrical insulators and components of various electronics from refrigerators to TVs. In the later part of the 1970s, scientists began to understand the potentially damaging effects of PCBs, since they can remain in the environment for long periods of time.
Additionally, prolonged exposure for humans can cause potentially serious health problems. Though their use was banned in the United States in 1979, because of their chemical composition they are still widespread. PCBs can even be found in the most remote corners of the world, and it’s estimated that nearly the entire global population has had some level of exposure to PCBs.
What are PCBs in Water?
PCBs in water are more common in areas where industrial production has, or currently, takes place. Discharge and runoff from industrial, and even some kinds of agricultural facilities, can enter drinking water supplies and cause elevated levels. PCBs in water can be hard to identify because they are often odorless, which makes them unassuming water contaminants.
In general, PCBs don’t dissolve well in water, so often contamination from PCBs in humans comes from foods that we eat – like fish who have absorbed the water – or other environmental exposure. When water is contaminated with PCBs, however, it can cause potentially damaging health effects over time.
Health Effects of PCBs
A ‘probably carcinogen,’ PCBs are likely to cause a range of cancers and other health complications in humans. Direct exposure to PCBs, either from high levels in water or in other forms, can cause rashes and skin irritation, as well as eye, lung, and nasal problems. Generally, these result after prolonged exposure to high levels of PCBs, however because of their ubiquity in the environment, and their ability to pass as a relatively unnoticed contaminant, it can be difficult to determine levels and timeframes of exposure.
How to Remove PCBs from Water
Thankfully, PCBs can be removed from water, and this is generally done through activated carbon filtration. If you suspect you have PCB water contamination, the first step is to get a water test to confirm. Your local Culligan Man can then help you determine the best course of filtration. For example, if PCB water contamination occurs at a place of business, it may be effective to install a point-of-use filter to remove the PCBs. If it occurs at the home, point-of-entry filtration systems will likely be more desirable to prevent exposure through showering, laundry, and other household activities.