Take Home Killer
Much like some cases of second-hand take-home exposure for certain industrial materials, PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls piggy-back their way into the home through a worker’s clothing. Studies have shown that the dust in homes of people who work in close proximity to high levels of PCBs have significantly more PCBs than in non-worker homes.
One early case of this secondary exposure involved the wife and child of a Monsanto Industrial Chemical Company employee. Monsanto PCBs were the only locally produced PCBs in North America. The case was reported to the US Public Health Service in 1936. The officer that interviewed the wife and child saw that pustules and blackheads had developed on their skin, and concluded that it was due to the PCBs that the employee brought home with him from the work site.
Other cases prompted the release of papers linking PCBs and adverse health effects. In 1947, in an article by Robert Brown in the journal Chemist-Analyst, he warned about the toxicity of Aroclors. He pointed out exposure could lead to disfiguring skin conditions such as dermatitis. Despite these many warning signs, PCBs continued to be manufactured and used in many products.
It was only in the 1970s when the dangers of PCBs became widely known that pressure was put on legislators to restrict its use. By then, it had been widely disseminated. It is estimated that Monsanto alone produced 1.5 billion tons of PCBs. Between 1935 and 1971, the Anniston plant was dumping anywhere from 16 to 250 pounds of PCBs in Snow Creek daily. There have been efforts to clean up years of waste disposal in Snow Creek, but the contamination levels are still severe. The Environmental Protection Agency continues to prohibit the consumption of fish from Snow Creek.
Anniston is just one site that declared a hazardous area because of PCBs. Several other sites are also problematic because these are where the products using PCB were manufactured.