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    Is current generation of polychlorinated biphenyls exceeding peak production of the 1970s?

    Megson, David ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8881-3860, Idowu, Ifeoluwa Grace and Sandau, Courtney D (2024) Is current generation of polychlorinated biphenyls exceeding peak production of the 1970s? Science of The Total Environment. 171436. ISSN 0048-9697

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    Abstract

    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are man-made chemicals that were once widely produced as commercial mixtures for various industrial applications. PCBs were later recognized as environmental pollutants and health hazards, leading to their global phase-out and strict regulations on their production, use, and disposal. Most investigations on PCBs focus on measuring the specific PCBs present in commercial mixtures or marker compounds representing those mixtures. However, there are new sources of PCBs that are gaining more attention. These ‘by-product PCBs’ are inadvertently produced in certain chemical and product formulations. Our estimates show that U.S. legislation currently permits the generation of more by-product PCBs (~100 million lb. (~45,000 Tonnes) per year) than during peak commercial production of the 1970s (85 million lb. (~39,000 Tonnes) per year). These PCBs are currently going un-detected in most investigations. Therefore, they may be a posing a growing, unmonitored environmental and human health risk. Most people assume PCBs to be legacy pollutants from historically formulated commercial mixtures. However, our research suggests that due to the emergence of by-product PCBs they may need to be reconsidered as an emerging pollutant of concern.

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