Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)


Prior to 1980, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were commonly used as insulators in electrical equipment because they have a high tolerance for heat, do not easily burn, and are non-explosive.  EPA banned the processing and distribution in commerce of PCBs in 1979 pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) due to their toxic effects.

As a result of the TSCA ban, and based on manufacturer and school information, schools built in the U.S. before 1979 may have light ballasts containing PCBs.  If a school built before 1979 has not had a complete lighting retrofit, the fluorescent light ballasts have a strong probability of containing PCBs.

Although intact, functioning ballasts do not pose a health threat, these lighting ballasts will all fail in time, potentially resulting in leaks, smoking and/or fires that can lead to high clean-up costs.  For that reason, EPA and many State environmental agencies recommend that older PCB-containing lighting ballasts be removed, whether as part of a previously scheduled lighting retrofit program or a stand-alone project.  If lighting ballasts do not state "Does Not Contain PCBs," they are usually assumed to contain PCBs.  In addition to the cited EPA resources, your State or local environmental and energy offices may have additional information to assist you in ballast retrofits.  Consider contacting your local EPA or State Office for more details or technical assistance.

Ballast presumed to contain PCBs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs in light fixtures

PCBs in caulk

Factsheets for Schools and teachers about PCBs-contaminated Caulk 

PCB Lighting Ballast in Schools

Managing PCBs in Ballasts and Small Capacitors (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)

PCBs in Caulk (powerpoint presentation posted to CT govt. website) 

CT Dept Environmental Protection - PCBs in Caulk (March 2013)