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Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are manufactured organic chemicals that are no longer produced in the United States, but are still in the environment and can cause health problems. PCBs do not easily break down and may remain in the air, water and soil for long periods of time.

Products made before 1977 that may contain PCBs include old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices containing PCB capacitors, and old microscope and hydraulic oils. PCBs also are common contaminants in fish.

If you are concerned about health problems associated with exposure to PCBs during your military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.

Man labeling PCB-containing transformers

Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Exposure to PCBs

Veterans at risk for PCB exposure during military service are those who, before 1977, worked on repair and maintenance of PCB transformers, capacitors, and conduits.

Other ways of exposure to PCBs include eating contaminated food (a major source is fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers); breathing air near hazardous waste sites, and drinking contaminated water.

Health problems associated with exposure to PCBs

The most common health problems for people exposed to large amounts of PCBs are skin conditions such as acne and rashes. Studies in exposed workers have shown changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage.

Learn more about PCBs and health effects from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Health concerns?

If you are concerned about health problems associated with exposure to PCBs during your military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.

VA offers a variety of health care benefits to eligible Veterans. Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Find out if you qualify for VA health care.

Compensation benefits for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to PCBs during military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.

Learn more about VA benefits.

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Find out if you’re eligible: Health Benefits Explorer

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