Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are carcinogenic and toxic chemical chlorine compounds which are virtually non-biodegradable. PCB are usually colourless to yellowish liquids with a high thermal stability.

PCB are hardly inflammable, electrically, thermally and chemically stable, extremely water-repellent and non-conductive. Because of these properties PCB were used in transformers and electrical capacitors, for instance in fluorescent lamps, industrial plants and older capacitor motors until the beginning of the eighties. Furthermore PCB can be found as a constituent parts in sealing compounds, floor coverings and insulating glazing.

Typical effects of PCB are hair loss, liver diseases and severe damage to the immune system. What is more, they are carcinogenic and highly mutagenic and can severely disrupt the physical and mental development. PCB are one of the twelf organic toxins known as „the dirty dozen“that were banned worldwide in the Stockholm Convention of 22nd May 2001.

Because of their high fat solubility PCB are absorbed already upon brief contact with the skin. A prolonged exposure to a high indoor contamination also leads to an increase in blood PCB levels.

Due to the aforementioned substance properties direct contact with the skin is to be avoided at all costs. Owing to this fact, capacitors and starter motors containing PCB are disposed of unopened if possible. Large transformers are drained professionally and the recovered oil or electrolyte is handed over to the disposer in a containment vessel.

Due to the classification of PCB as  *hazardous waste* the disposal of substances containing PCB has to be made via the agency for hazardous wastes “Sonderabfallbehörde Berlin Brandenburg” (SBB) and accounted for in detail via the electronic waste-records procedure (ENV).

Possible waste code numbers (AVV no.) are:

19 02 02*Construction and demolition waste containing PCB (e.g. sealing compounds, resin-based flooring, insulating glazing and capacitors containing PCB.