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EWG's Tap Water Database

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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Status: National drinking water standard exists

 

PCBs are synthetic chemicals banned in the U.S. since the 1970s because of their toxicity. PCBs contaminate water by leaching from landfills and hazardous waste clean-up sites. PCBs increase the risk of cancer. Read More.

Up until the late 1970s, PCBs were used widely as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. Currently, PCBs are widely detected in the general population. They build up and are stored in fatty tissues and fluids such as breast milk, and can be passed on to fetuses and infants during pregnancy and breast-feeding. In human epidemiological studies, PCBs have been associated with an elevated risk of breast and prostate cancers. Infants and children with higher PCB exposures during development score lower on measures of neurological function, ranging from decreased IQ scores to reduced hearing sensitivity. PCBs also affect hormones and damage the immune system.

2015:

FOUND
FOUND ABOVE HEALTH GUIDELINES

2

states detected

3

utilities detected

27,741

people served

1

states over health guideline

2

utilities over health guideline

12,886

people served over health guideline

Health concerns for PCBs

Breast cancer

Prostate cancer

Harm to the brain and nervous system

Hormone disruption

Harm to the immune system

State and national drinking water standards and health guidelines

Health Guideline 0.09 ppb

The health guideline of 0.09 ppb for PCBs was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

ppb = parts per billion.

EPA Maximum Contaminant
Level (MCL) 0.5 ppb

The enforceable federal standard that defines the highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water.

ppb = parts per billion.

EPA Maximum Contaminant
Level Goal (MCLG)0 ppb

A non-enforceable federal health guideline. For cancer-causing chemicals, these health goals are typically set to zero.

ppb = parts per billion.

States reporting PCBs in drinking water

UTILITIES REPORTING ABOVE HEALTH GUIDELINES UTILITIES WITH CONTAMINATION
State UtilitiesPeople Served UtilitiesPeople Served
New Mexico00114,855
Florida212,886212,886
MORE
LESS

Utilities with the highest amounts of PCBs, 2015

ALL UTILITIES
LARGE UTILITIES
UtilityLocationTestsAverage levelPeople served
Sunny PinesJacksonville, FL4 of 40.483 ppb80
City of Port St. JoePort St. Joe, FL1 of 30.123 ppb12,806
Deming Municipal Water SystemDeming, NM2 of 60.0800 ppb14,855
UtilityLocationTestsAverage levelPeople served
City of Port St. JoePort St. Joe, FL1 of 30.123 ppb12,806
Deming Municipal Water SystemDeming, NM2 of 60.0800 ppb14,855