PCB’s in drinking water

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Blogger
Thursday, 9th May 2019
Share this article
sign saying "Caution, contains PCB's"

PCB’s in drinking water

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of industrial chemical that come in either a solid or a liquid form. They were widely produced in the US and other countries from the 1930s all the way through to the 1970’s. PCB’s were mainly used in electrical equipment but they also found use in fire retardants, inks, lubricants and other compounds.

Nearly 2 million tonnes of PCB’s have been produced since 1929. About 10 percent of this still exists today due to the compounds resistance to chemical and thermal breakdown. As a result they then accumulate in the environment.

PCB’s mainly accumulate in water sources, organic portions of soil and in living organisms.

The main way PCBs can enter drinking water is  by runoff from landfills, industrial waste discharge or industrial incinerators.

Regarding the health effects of consuming PCB’s, they have been shown to do a lot more damage in children. Any person who consumes PCB over a period of time may experience

  • Acne and rashes
  • Liver and kidney dysfunction
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Nose and lung irritation
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Developmental problems in children

 The allowed level of PCB in water in the united states and other countries is 500 PPT (Parts Per Trillion).

For PCB contaminated water to be released into rivers or other freshwater systems, The EPA recommends that you make use of sand filtration and then pass it through carbon columns.

If you however receive water containing PCB’s in your home, there are a few options you can go through. The two best options are a granule activated carbon (GAC) filter system or a reverse osmosis system.

Both of these systems can be installed in your home. GAC filter systems however are more affordable and require less maintenance.

It is also worth noting however that since PCB’s are present in freshwater sources they may also be present in greater quantity in living organisms in those freshwater sources like fish. If you suspect that the fish you are about to eat may have been in contact with PCB, be sure to take the skin off of the fish and remove any of the digestive tracks before cooking it.  This will ensure that you consume as little PCB as possible when eating the fish.

If you have any concerns about your water quality, be sure to purchase a test at https://www.h2olabcheck.com/category

Share this article