Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)


PCBs were produced commercially in the United States from 1929 until 1977. Marketed worldwide under trade names such as Aroclor, Askarel, and Therminol, the annual U.S. production peaked in 1970 with a total production volume of 85 million pounds (39 million kg) of Aroclors. Between 1957 and 1971, 12 different types of Aroclors, with chlorine contents ranging from 21 to 68% were produced in the United States.

In 1976, the U.S. Congress charged EPA with regulating the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of PCBs. Currently regulated pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the first set of effluent standards for PCBs was issued by EPA in 1977; manufacturing and importing limitations regarding PCBs were issued in 1979. After subsequent amendments, the regulations stipulate that the production of PCBs in the United States is generally banned, the use of PCB-containing materials still in service is restricted, the discharge of PCB-containing effluents is prohibited, the disposal of materials contaminated by PCBs is regulated, and the import or export of PCBs is only permitted through an exemption granted from EPA.


Section 6(e)(3)(A) of TSCA prohibited all manufacture and importation of PCBs after January 1, 1979. On January 2, 1979, however, EPA announced that companies that had filed petitions for exemptions from the PCB manufacturing/importation ban could continue manufacturing or import activity until EPA acted on the application petition. As of July 7, 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the Import for Disposal Rule. EPA can now only allow imports of PCBs by issuing exemptions to importers via the petition process under Section 6(e) of TSCA. Exemptions can be granted by EPA based on the finding that no unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment will occur.

PCB wastes generated in U.S. territories may be returned to the continental United States for disposal in EPA-approved facilities. EPA has determined that disposal in an approved facility does not constitute an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.

It is illegal to export PCBs at concentrations greater than 50 ppm for disposal purposes.

More Resources

EPA PCB web page. EPA provides various paths for the public to access information about PCBs.  On this website you may access information about PCBs and their health effects and learn more about the laws and regulations that govern PCBs.