Friday, April 25, 2014

The PCB loophole

It's bad, it's poisoning you, and it costs you money.  When we "banned" PCBs, we left a loophole: PCBs are legal as contaminants.

Why does this matter? We're spending real money to clean up waterways like Puget Sound. But we allow PCBs at levels that matter in products like yellow paint.

Now you can probably see the toxic irony that moved me to take the picture on the left. We ask people not to dump, but the worn yellow paint is leaching PCBs into the Sound.

PCBs are hiding in plain view, and we knew that would happen
when we created the PCB loophole. But surprisingly, these contaminant PCBs are standing in the way of public health and a booming economy.  Oops.

As we try to figure out how to get PCBs out of our waterways, contaminant PCBs are emerging as a big picture political problem. Big businesses are worried, governments are trying to manage, and heavy fish-eaters like First Nations outraged by the toxic contamination of their food. This loophole that once seemed tiny is emerging as a possible driver of important public policy debates.


Anonymous said...

PCB's are a fish consumption problem, with salmon as well as with non anadromous fish. The Oregon Fish Consumption Rate did not include salmon, since salmon were deemed to be bringing the PCBs to the state, which was not necessarily a contaminant produced in the state, and therefore would not be regulated appreciably by increasing state regs for water quality. Salmon are still consumed in great quantities by special interest groups, and many salmon are high in PCBs. Another problem is that many fishing methodologies (state regulation enabled) utilize lead fishing sinker contamination scenarios that put tackle box lead particulate onto wet hands, onto lunches, onto fish and iceboxes, into boat bilge water, onto fish mucus, and into the frying pan at home... therefore into the family on repeated basis.
PCBs are known to be not only additively toxic with lead, but also to be synergistically toxic in some physiologic systems affected by both toxicants.
Ray Kinney

Mark Powell said...

Interesting difference, in Washington we have some salmon that spend considerable time in local inland ocean waters. The lead/PCB issue is a good addition to the discussion, thanks.