• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

  • By: Barry D. Solomon
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of odorless, liquid, synthetic organic chemicals containing chlorine, hydrogen, and carbon that persist in the environment following use. PCBs have many applications, including dielectric fluid in electrical capacitors and transformers, hydraulic fluids and lubricants, flame retardants, plasticizers, and carbonless copy paper. PCBs have been manufactured and used worldwide since their introduction in 1927, with Monsanto controlling the U.S. market since 1935 and accounting for half the global production.

PCBs have been widely used for more than 75 years, with about 1.65 million tons of cumulative production worldwide. These chemicals have several advantages: fire resistance, low electrical conductivity, high resistance to thermal breakdown, and high chemical stability. Unfortunately, due to their persistence, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification, they can cause several adverse ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles