New guidelines for workers handling scrap equipment with PCBs

Experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston University have developed educational materials to help protect workers in electronic recycling (e-recycling) facilities from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The experts—Marty Alvarez, a project manager in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, and Diana Ceballos, an assistant professor at BU School of Public Health and former visiting scientist at Harvard Chan—wrote about their efforts in an April 15, 2021, article in E-Scrap News.

PCBs were widely used as coolants, sealants, and lubricants in a range of electrical equipment until they were banned in 1979. Some of the old equipment is still in use, and workers in e-recycling facilities can come into contact with it when it is scrapped. Exposure to PCBs has been linked with health issues including skin conditions, respiratory tract symptoms, liver and gastrointestinal problems, and neurobehavioral and immunological changes, according to the article.

Alvarez and Ceballos created the new educational materials after concluding that there were no existing recommendations for how to recycle e-waste containing PCBs.

Read the E-Scrap News article: In Our Opinion: Safe e-recycling of polychlorinated biphenyls