Ritz cheese and cracker snack packaging, paint color and yellow spray paint have the highest levels of the banned substance polychlorinated biphenyl among products tested, according to a report released Thursday by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
PCBs were also detected in newspapers, magazines and in packaging of several food items including lime Jello, macaroni and cheese, Fruit by the Foot and taco shells.
Sixty-eight different products were tested for PCBs, specifically PCB-11, PCB-206, PCB-208 and PCB-209. PCB-11 was found in 49 of the products. PCB-206 and PCB-208 were not present in most of the products tested. Seven products contained PCB-209, and one product, used to color white paint, contained detectable levels of all four PCBs.
PCBs were banned in 1979 and likely cause cancer. However, it is not illegal to manufacture them at low levels and they appear to be a by-product of dye and pigment manufacturing.
Consumer products are an ongoing new source of PCB contamination according to the report, and one source of contamination, PCB-11, is mostly unregulated.
The report does not investigate the effects of PCBs on human health or the environment, nor does it reach any conclusions concerning the risk they pose. However, scientists have stated in the past that PCBs and other industrial chemicals are responsible for increased developmental disabilities in children.
The Department of Ecology has begun testing additional products such as colored clothing, cosmetics, soaps, office products and children’s products such as finger paints and comic books.
Intentional and unintentional PCB contamination is an ongoing concern in the US. In May, Titanium Metals Corporation agreed to pay a record $13.75 million civil penalty stemming primarily from the unauthorized manufacture and disposal of PCBs at its manufacturing facility in Henderson, Nev.
Photo Credit: Lime Jello via Kipa01/Flickr