United States      Region 10
    . Environmental Protection  1200 Sixth Avenue
     Agency	Seattle WA 98101
     Arr & Toxics Division	
Em PCBs in

     A Fact Sheet


The purpose of this brochure is to provide some basic
information on PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
and guidelines for handling PCBs in fluorescent light
fixtures. Although the precautionary actions described
In this fact sheet may seem extreme, or suggest to
some that cleanup of a small PCB spill is personally
hazardous, this is not generally so. For example, if
you should get a small amount of PCB on your skin
during cleanup, it is highly unlikely.that you would be
harmed. However, given the nature of PCBs and the
fact that much is still unknown about the effects of
Ring structure of a PCB Molecule
minor  exposures, no  absolute  guarantees  or
reassurances can be given.  For that reason, EPA
has chosen  to describe a conservative approach
which minimizes personal hazard.  It is EPA's hope
that this information will inform you rather than alarm

What Are  PCBs?

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) belong to abroad
family of organic chemicals known as chlorinated
hydrocarbons.  PCBs  are produced by the
combination  of one or more chlorine atoms  and a

biphenyi molecule.  Virtually all PCBs in existence
today have been synthetically manufactured.

PCBs range in consistency from heavy oily liquids to
waxy solids.  Prior to 1979, PCBs were widely used
in electrical equipment such  as transformers,
capacitors, switches, and voltage regulators for their
"cooling" properties because they do not readily burn
or conduct electricity, and only boil at high temperature.
Also, PCBs do not readily react with other chemicals.
They were also  used in mining equipment, heat
transfer and hydraulic systems, carbonless copy
pap£r, pigments,  and microscopy mounting media.

Why Are PCBs Harmful to Human
Health  and the Environment?

When released into the environment, PCBs do not
easily break apart  and  form  new  chemical
arrangements  (i.e.,  they  are  not  readily
biodegradable).   Instead,  they persist for many
years,  bioaccumulate, and bioconcentrate in
organisms. Laboratory data show that PCBs cause
cancer in animals. Although there are no actual data
showing that PCBs cause cancer in humans, EPA's
policy is to consider animal carcinogens to be possible
human carcinogens. Animal studies show adverse
reproductive and developmental effects from repeated
exppsure to PCBs. In addition, it has been shown that
PCBs are toxic to fish at very low levels of exposure.
The; survival rate and the reproductive success offish
can be adversely affected by the presence of PCBs.
EPA believes there may be similar cause for concern
when humans are exposed to large doses of PCBs.
Exposure to PCBs can cause chloracne (a painful,
disfiguring  skin  ailment), liver damage,  nausea,
dizziness, eye irritation, and bronchitis.
Note:  Liver damage can occur from dermal contact and
      inhalation, not just from ingestion. Most PCBs are
      readily absorbed through the skin.

How Does EPA Regulate PCBs?

EPA regulates PCBs through rules issued pursuant
to the  federal Toxic Substances Control Act of
1976.  These regulations generally control the use,
marking, storage, records,  and disposal of PCBs.
There are millions of pieces of equipment in operation
in the U.S. which were manufactured prior to these
regulations and which contain PCBs.

 Small Capacitors in Fluorescent Light Ballasts

 Light ballasts are the primary electric components
of fluorescent light fixtures and are generally located
within  the fixture under a metal cover plate.  The
 ballast units are generally composed of a transformer
to reduce the incoming voltage, a small capacitor
 (which may contain PCBs), and possibly a thermal
 cut-off  switch and/or safety fuse.    These
 components are  surrounded by a tar-like substance

This islthe ballast portion of a typical fluorescent light fixture.
that is designed to muffle the noise that is inherent in
the operation of  the ballast.  This  tar-like coating
covers the small capacitor. When a ballast unit fails,
excessive heat can be generated which will melt or
burn ;the tar material, creating a characteristic foul

In considering causes of ballast failure, some privately
conducted tests have indicated that operation of
power-saving lamps (i.e., tubes) with a standard
ballast or standard lamps with a power-saving
ballast tends to significantly increase the ballast
operating temperature and decrease its normal
life-span.  It appears that  ballasts  will fail less
frequently if standard lamps are used  only with
standard ballasts and power-saving lamps with power-
saving ballasts. Fluorescent lamps/tubes should
be changed in pairs; new lamps  should not be
used with old lamps.

Does Your fluorescent Light  Ballast
Contain PCBs?

Before EPA banned the manufacture of PCBs in
1978;  PCBs were commonly incorporated in the
manufacture of fluorescent light ballasts. The use of
PCBs in ballasts  manufactured prior to 1978 is not
regulated by EPA. All light ballasts manufactured
since'  1978  which do not contain PCBs should be
marked by the manufacturer with the statement "No
PCBs."  For those  manufactured prior to that

Once you have removed the fluorescent tubes and the central cover,
you will be able to easily locate the ballast(s). Note the gloves and
goggles worn to prevent possible personal contact with PCBs.

timei, or for those ballasts which contain no
statement regarding PCB content, you should
assume that they do contain PCBs.

If the ballast does contain PCBs, they are located
inside  the small  capacitor.  There  would be
approximately 1 to 114 ounces of PCBs in the capacitor
itself, If the ballast fails, the capacitor may break
open, allowing the  PCBs to  contaminate  the
surrounding tar-like material and drip out of the
fixture.  The capacitor does not always leak when
the ballast fails but when it does, measures should be
taken to limit or avoid personal exposure.

What  Should I Do if My Light  Ballast

EPAihas these recommendations for anyone with a
fluorescent light ballast leaking PCBs:

 1.  Vacate the room or area  immediately and
    open any windows to ventilate the room to
    the outside. If the incident occurs in a room
    which cannot be vented, the person replacing
    the failed ballast and cleaning up can reduce
    exposure  by  wearing a  chemical cartridge
    respirator equipped with an organic vapor

 2.  Turn off the light fixture at the switch and
    disconnect electricity at the fuse or breaker

   box. Let the ballast unit cool for 20-30 minutes
   before proceeding.

  If the room is fully ventilated, the amount of
  : PCB-contaminated particulate matter in the
   air shouid decrease significantly enough to
   make negligible any risk from breathing.

3.  Since RGBs are readily absorbed through the
   skin, you shouid wear rubber gloves that will
  ! not absorb PCBs (e.g.,  neoprene, butyl, or
  i nitrile). Further, if you will be working directly
   under the fixture, consider using additional
   protective gear such  as goggles (or a face
   shield) and a rubber apron to help  guard
   against possible exposure from further
   leaking or cleanup activities. Exercise caution
   to avoid personal contamination (e.g., from
   touching your face  with a contaminated

   During  the cleanup or removal period,
   smoking should  be prohibited in the area
   because smoking increases the inhalation
   rate of contaminated air.  In addition,  you
   may  be using a  flammable solvent  in the

4.  Remove the fluorescent lamps.

5.  Recheck that the power is off at the fuse or
   breaker box.  Remove the metal cover over
   the wiring and ballast unit; loosen the ballast
  , unit by taking out the metal screws which
   hold it  to the end of the  fixture; cut the
   electrical wires going  to the ballast  and
  , remove the ballast.

   Mote: Wire connectors  can be used when
   installing a new ballast.

6.  Proceed to clean up leaks using the following

     PCBsthatleakonto nonabsorbentsurtaces
     such as table tops and uncarpeted floors
     should first be cleaned up by wiping with a
     rag or paper towel  or by scraping with a
     putty knife  if hardened.  Avoid smearing
     the  PCB  around.  This  would only
     contaminate a larger area. Surfaces should
     then be thoroughly cleaned twice using an
     appropriate  solvent or detergent.  Only
     certain solvents are effective in cleaning
  i   up spilled PCBs.  These include mineral
     spirits, deodorized kerosene,  turpentine,
     and rubbing alcohol.  (Note, however, that
     some of these solvents can damage certain
     types of flooring andfloorfinishes.) Certain
  !   detergents containing  trisodium phosphate
     which are readily available at most large
     groceries and  retail  home improvement
     outlets may also be used. However, they
     should be used only  at full strength and

      applied with a damp rag rather than diluted
      in a bucket, since the solution in the bucket
      would become contaminated and could
      not legally be disposed of in a sewer system.
      Some other effective detergent products
      are commercially available  at industrial
      supply companies or other retail home
      improvement outlets.

      For leaks onto absorbent materials such
      as drapes and carpets, there is no reliable
      way to clean and decontaminate the
      material. In the case of rugs and fabrics,
      the material should be cut away iin a six-
      inch  radius around  the contamination
      point(s).  In areas where foot traffic has
      spread contamination,  the entire carpet
      should be disposed of.  Proper disposal
      procedures for all such materials are
      described in the following section.
      Associated  surfaces, such  as IFiooring
      under contaminated carpeting, should be
      thoroughly  cleaned  with a solvent or
      detergent as previously described.

 7. Contaminated  materials  (ballasts, rags,
    contaminated clothing,  gloves, drapes,
    carpets, efc.jshould be packed into crumpled
    newspapers  or other  sorbent materials
    (sawdust, kitty litter,  vermiculite, soil, etc.)
    and placed in a double thickness plastic bag.
    This bag should be taken to one of the
    transporters listed in the following section of
    this fact sheet.  There, the contaminated
    materials will be packed in a drum approved
    for PCBs by the Department of Transportation
    and finally disposed of at an EPA approved

    (One might consider discarding the entire light
    fixture instead of decontaminating the unit. This
    would eliminate the chance of skin contact with
    the PCBs while cleaning inside the light fixture.)

 8. When you are completely through with the
    cleanup process, and contaminated materials
    and protective clothing have been packed
    for disposal, you should wash  your hands
    thoroughly with detergent.

 9. Continue to ventilate the room for 24 hours
    before reuse.

How to Get Rid of Your PCBs

Arrangements may be made with various  PCB
transporters or PCB commercial storers for shipment
of ballasts, PCB-soiled items, or fluorescent fixtures
containing PCBs to an EPA-approved chemical waste
processing site. You may wish to call more than one
transporter or commercial storer to compare prices.
Your EPA regional office can provide you with a list
of  authorized PCB transporters and commercial
 storers. These companies may also be listed in the
 telephone yellow pages under "waste disposal."

 There are several other potential options homeowners
 may have to dispose of this material. We suggest the

  1.  Check with  your local health  department to
     determine if it has household hazardous waste
     collection centers that  can  accommodate
     fluorescent light ballasts containing PCBs.

  2.  Check with your local fire department to
     determine if  it schedules periodic collection of
    .household hazardous waste and, if so, if it will
     accept PCB light ballasts. Many of them do this
     once a year.

 For'farther'information, please call your
 regional EPA contact.    These are as

 EPA Region 1 (Maine, Vermont, New
     Hampshire,  Massachusetts, Connecticut,
     Rhode Island)
        Boston, MA - (617) 565-3420
 EPA Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Puerto
    Rico,  Virgin islands)
        New York, NY - (212) 264-2657
 EPA Region 3 (Pennsylvania, West Virginia,
    Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, D.C.)
        Philadelphia, PA - (215) 597-9800
 EPA Region 4 (Tennessee, Kentucky, North
    Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
    Alabama, Mississippi, Florida)
        Atlanta, GA - (404) 347-4727
 EPA Region 5 (Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana,
    Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio)
        Chicago, IL - (312) 353-2000
 EPA Region 6 (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma,
    Arkansas, Louisiana)
        Dallas, TX - (214) 655-6444
 EPA Region 7 (Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri,
        Kansas City, KS - (913) 551-7000
 EPA Region 8 (Montana, Wyoming, North
    Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Colorado
        Denver, CO - (303) 293-1603
 EPA Region 9 (California, Nevada,  Arizona,
    Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam)
        San Francisco, CA - (415) 744-1305
 EPA! Region 10 (Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
        Seattle, WA - (206) 553-1200 or 1 -800-

* U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1993-792-549 May 1993