Tech Info

PCB Dangers

Reactive Power PF Correction Capacitors Harmonics PCB Disposal PCB Dangers

liqleak.jpg (5230 bytes) PCB is insoluble in, and is heavier than water. It is essential to prevent PCB’s entering the food chain and hence spillages should be contained by sand-bags (if in large quantities) to ensure they are kept out of drains or water courses.

Spillages can be absorbed by normal industrial absorbent material such as sand, ash etc., and surfaces wiped with rags soaked in cleaning oil.

However, all such materials must be disposed of as PCB contaminated items and not as normal waste.

skin.jpg (4358 bytes) PCB’s are moderate skin irritants when contact is of short duration. With prolonged contact, this may result in a form of dermatitis known as cloracne.

Where contact is unavoidable, gloves of an impermeable material should be used. If skin contact occurs, the affected parts should be thoroughly washed with soap and water.

eye.jpg (4231 bytes) PCB’s cause eye irritation and wherever possible goggles should be worn whenever free PCB liquid is present.

If the eyes have been exposed to liquid PCB, or any associated vapours, they should be thoroughly washed with running water.

fumes.jpg (4486 bytes) In addition to causing irritation to eyes, exposure to high concentrations of PCB vapours can create problems to the nose and upper respiratory tract as well as internal reactions.

In the normally sealed construction of power capacitors, vapours will not be produced and in leakage conditions at normal room temperature, PCB is not expected to create harmful fumes.

Smoking should, however, be avoided when handling PCB’s. In the event of exposure to fumes from hot PCB, medical advice should be immediately obtained.

ingest.jpg (3757 bytes) The full effects of PCB on humans is still the subject of scientific enquiry and includes possible effects on the heart, blood vessels, liver and reproductive organs.

It is imperative, therefore, that ingestion of PCB's is avoided and in any accidental contact with internal parts of the body, medical help should be obtained.

Attention to cleanliness in handling PCB’s, washing hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or using toilet facilities is essential. No unguarded open cuts or abrasions should be allowed to come into contact with PCB.

fire.jpg (3644 bytes) Paradoxically, one of the main dangers of PCB arises from its original major benefit of low flammability.

PCB’s can be burnt but when incinerated at less than 1100șC, such as in factory fires, it is possible that dioxins and dibenzofurans may be created which can pollute the atmosphere.

These highly toxic and dangerous chemicals can then be deposited over a wide area not only creating a major health hazard, but necessitating plant closure and expensive decontamination.

pros.jpg (4143 bytes) In almost all countries, the disposal of PCB is strictly controlled and in some major industrial countries its use is now completely banned.

In the U.K. legislation covering the disposal of PCB capacitors is contained in the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (Special Wastes) 1980.

Failure to comply with these regulations carries severe financial penalties and possible imprisonment.

From the end of June 1986 the UK law has been extended to ban the repair, sale or reinstallation of PCB capacitors.


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While every care is taken to ensure that the information contained in this publication is correct, no legal responsibility can be accepted for any inaccuracy. The Company reserves the right to alter or modify the information contained herein at any time in the light of technical or other developments.