PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are chemical compounds made by Monsanto from the 1930s through the 1970s. They were used in a multitude of industrial applications, including electrical switches and transformers, caulks, paints and many, many others. Although substantial evidence shows that Monsanto was well aware of the toxicity of PCBs, and that PCBs could not be contained in products or normal uses, the company continued to produce them for decades. As a result, PCBs have contaminated school buildings across the country, they have migrated into city stormwater systems, and they have infiltrated bodies of water and natural resources. Exposure to PCBs is associated with several health problems, including issues affecting the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.
Although PCBs were banned for sale and use in the U.S. in 1979, products that were installed before the ban still remain in place in many school buildings across the nation – especially in school buildings constructed or renovated between 1950 and 1980. Unfortunately, many school district officials are completely unaware that these toxins are present in their facilities, and are only now beginning to realize just how prevalent the problem is.
Low levels of PCBs exist just about everywhere and contaminate the environment in many different ways. One of the most common is through storm water runoff. Lakes, bays, rivers and municipal water systems have been contaminated due to the leaking or leaching of PCBs. As a result, fish and wildlife habitats have been impacted, and some communities can no longer use water bodies for recreation or fishing.