Before the United States Congress imposed its ban in 1979, Monsanto PCBs were used in a wide variety of industrial applications and commercial products. The chemical industry giant Monsanto produced up to 1.5 billion tons of polychlorinated biphenyls to help manufacturers create anything from flameproof Christmas trees to paint and other building materials. However, as incidents of toxic exposure and pollution were slowly exposed to the public, government agencies worked to crack down against the continued use of chemical substances found to have severe and dangerous effects on human health and the environment.
While the ban has been able to stop the spread of dangers associated with PCBs, the risk of exposure has yet to be fully mitigated. Even after more than 30 years has passed since PCBs were banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act, plenty of areas that became Monsanto toxic waste dumping grounds are still contaminated by the chemicals and pose health hazards to the public. Among such areas is the San Diego Bay in California. The City of San Diego even filed a lawsuit against Monsanto claiming that PCB pollution has detrimental effects on the wildlife in the area. People in San Diego Bay and other contaminated areas continue to face the risk of PCB exposure, considering that the substance can easily enter the body through inhalation and skin contact. Individuals can also be exposed to PCBs and its dangerous effects through ingesting fish, meat, or poultry contaminated with the toxic substance.
The Environmental Protection Agency classifies PCBs as a probable human carcinogen. They also point out that PCB exposure can lead to issues with the reproductive, nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. PCBs can also cause other medical conditions such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and increased serum serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels. However, these effects are known to develop over a long period of continued exposure.
According to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, immediate symptoms only arise when the exposure to PCBs is of significant amount. This usually happens when a person ingests something contaminated with the substance. In these cases, the exposed individual will experience vomiting, nausea, respiratory issues, and skin irritation, and require urgent medical attention.
On the other hand, low-level, long-term PCB exposure becomes evident through the development of acne-like skin irritation called chloracne. An individual exposed to PCB might also observe their skin and nails darkening over time. Prolonged PCB exposure can also cause an individual’s liver to enlarge, pointing to signs of a more serious medical condition.