Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are man-made chemicals produced for fifty years in the 20th century. Production and use of these chemicals were banned after they were linked to a variety of adverse health conditions. However, despite the fact that they were outlawed over 40 years ago, they continue to cause harm to countless people throughout the world today.
There are many different types of PCBs, and the toxicity level can vary significantly. Although PCBs are no longer used today, they can still be found in many older buildings and products. Additionally, because these chemicals do not easily break down in the environment, they have managed to spread across the world, contaminating water, air, and soil.
If you have been harmed by exposure to PCBs, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Contact the PCBs experts at Berry Law to learn more about your options.
Can PCBs Cause Cancer?
While there is direct evidence that PCBs cause a variety of other types of health hazards, the proof is not 100% conclusive when it comes to cancer. However, the general consensus among the scientific community is that these chemicals are likely human carcinogens.
The following respected organizations have all run studies and reached the conclusion that PCBs are probably carcinogenic to humans:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- The International Agency for Research of Cancer
- The National Toxicology Program
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Other Adverse Health Conditions Caused By PCBs
Because PCBs have spread so widely across the globe, most people have had at least some level of exposure to these chemicals. However, the potential for adverse health effects in humans due to low-level environmental exposure is still uncertain. Meanwhile, a variety of ill effects have been tied to PCB exposure at high concentrations.
Those most affected by exposure to PCBs are people who worked in plants that manufactured and used PCBs and equipment containing PCBs. Negative health effects caused by exposure to PCBs include:
- Liver damage
- Dermal lesions
- Respiratory problems
- Reproductive issues
- Developmental disabilities
- Thyroid hormonal imbalance
While these are the most common health conditions caused by PCB exposure, other harmful conditions have also been tied to these chemicals. Studies have found that PCBs can also have a negative effect on the following systems:
Products Containing PCBs
Because PCBs are non-flammable, chemically stable, have a high boiling point, and have properties that make them suitable for electrical insulation, they were used in a wide variety of products in the middle of the 20th century. Even though PCBs are no longer produced, they can still be found in many older products, including:
- Fluorescent light ballasts
- Motor oil
- Voltage regulators
- Electrical switches
- Various electrical devices
- Cable insulation
- Thermal insulation material (fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork)
- Oil-based paint
- Carbonless copy paper
- Floor finish
Beyond being present in many products, PCBs have traveled long distances over the years because of the fact that they don’t break down easily. This has led to PCB contamination of water, soil, and air far from anywhere these chemicals were produced or used.
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Legal Action Regarding PCBs
Since the 1990s, there have been several lawsuits filed over PCB exposure and contamination. The majority of these lawsuits were filed against Monsanto for its role in the production and sale of these chemicals. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, was the primary seller of PCBs domestically during the production run of these chemicals.
The results of the lawsuits against Monsanto have been a mixed bag of wins, losses, and settlements. However, more recently, legal decisions in these cases have been favoring the plaintiffs more often. In four out of five recent lawsuits in Washington State, Monsanto was ordered to pay the plaintiffs significant compensation, with the fifth lawsuit ending in a mistrial.
If you were harmed by exposure to PCBs, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the PCB experts at Berry Law to learn more about your options for pursuing damages. You can get started with a free consultation by giving us a call or filling out our online contact form.