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EWG's Tap Water Database — 2019 UPDATE

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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.

2015-2017:

FOUND
FOUND ABOVE HEALTH GUIDELINES

4

states detected

12

utilities detected

194,000

people served

3

states over health guideline

5

utilities over health guideline

16,056

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

EWG Health Guideline 0.09 ppb

The EWG 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.

EPA Maximum Contaminant
Level (MCL) 0.5 ppb

The legal limit for PCBs, established in 1991, was based on analytical detection limits at the time that the standard was set. This limit may not fully protect against the risk of cancer due to PCB exposure.

ppb = parts per billion

States reporting PCBs in drinking water

UTILITIES REPORTING ABOVE HEALTH GUIDELINES UTILITIES WITH CONTAMINATION
State UtilitiesPeople Served UtilitiesPeople Served
Florida1807163,045
New Mexico00114,855
West Virginia314,167314,167
Massachusetts11,80911,809
MORE
LESS

Filtering technologies that reduce PCBs

carbon filter icon

Activated Carbon

reverse osmosis icon

Reverse Osmosis

Utilities with the highest amounts of PCBs, 2015-2017

ALL UTILITIES
LARGE UTILITIES
UtilityLocationTestsAverage levelPeople served
Sunny PinesJacksonville, FL8 of 80.358 ppb80
Leadsville PsdElkins, WV1 of 30.244 ppb1,539
Midland PsdElkins, WV1 of 30.244 ppb3,155
Elkins City Of*Elkins, WV1 of 30.244 ppb9,473
Colonial Water CompanyDover, MA1 of 10.230 ppb1,809
City of Port St. JoePort St. Joe, FL1 of 70.0529 ppb12,806
Frostproof, City ofFrostproof, FL2 of 60.0367 ppb3,550
Mulberry, City ofMulberry, FL2 of 50.0300 ppb3,780
Deming Municipal Water SystemDeming, NM2 of 190.0253 ppb14,855
Fern Crest Utilities Inc.Ft Lauderdale, FL1 of 30.0250 ppb4,643
Miramar (East & West) PlantsMiramar, FL1 of 60.0128 ppb128,729
South Broward Utility/sunriseFort Lauderdale, FL1 of 30.00967 ppb9,457

* This water utility supplies finished drinking water to at least one other water utility. The purchasing utility is not required to test for or report Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but it likely has the contaminant in its water supply.

UtilityLocationTestsAverage levelPeople served
City of Port St. JoePort St. Joe, FL1 of 70.0529 ppb12,806
Deming Municipal Water SystemDeming, NM2 of 190.0253 ppb14,855
Miramar (East & West) PlantsMiramar, FL1 of 60.0128 ppb128,729