Valeri Andrews, Karen Bartosh, Nicole Gunderson, Katelin Holm, Katie Larson, Tina Spielmann & Elizabeth Wiedell
University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Introduction to Environmental and Public Health - ENPH 210
History and Use of PCBs Environmental Effects
Human Health Effects and Prevention
Clean Up Plan Economic Damage
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
n Economic Damage
Polychlorinated Biphenyls also known as PCBs are mixtures of synthetic organic chemicals with the same basic chemical structure and physical properties, ranging from oily liquids to waxy solids.
There are 209 different kinds of PCBs and they only differ by where the chlorine is placed and how many molecules there are. Each shape acts differently while coplanar PCBs tend to be more hazardous than non-coplanar. Coplanar means lying in the same plane as opposed to one ring lying parallel to the floor and one perpendicular.
PCBs have a high boiling point, do not break down easily in water, they resist wear and tear, have a non-flammable chemical stability and exhibit electrical insulation properties.
Prior to 1977, 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications. Some examples are in heat transfer, hydraulic equipment, plastics, rubber products, dyes and carbonless copy paper.
Carbonless copy paper is used to make countless copies. The pressure of the pen ruptures micro capsules that hold a dye precursor. A chemical reaction takes place between the dye precursor in the top page and an acid source in the bottom page.
1954--- NCR Corporation and Appleton Paper Company began dumping PCBs into the Fox River, as a by-product of their joint production of PCB-coated carbonless copy paper. Shortly thereafter, five other paper companies started recycling the PCB-contaminated trimmings and wastepaper originating from Appleton Paper Company, and they also began dumping PCBs into the Fox River with their wastewater.
1971--- Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources initiated studies on the Fox River to determine the source of PCB contamination.
1971--- Fearing lawsuits, Monsanto (the producer of the PCBs) began requiring its customers (like Appleton Papers) to sign waivers relieving Monsanto of financial liability for improper uses of the chemical, thus putting buyers on notice of possible dangers.
1971-72--- Appleton Paper Company and NCR Corporation phased out PCB use...However, wastepaper recyclers continued to process PCB contaminated waste papers for several decades afterward, as offices and homes gradually disposed of old files and papers
1973--- U.S. Food and Drug Administration established a tolerance level of 5.0 parts per million (ppm) in commercially caught fish.
1976--- DNR released a major report on PCB contamination on the Fox River. Fish consumption advisories were issued for the first time, warning anglers to not eat certain fish.
1989--- The DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service met to discuss legal actions to enforce cleanup of the Fox River.
1991--- The DNR held several meetings with paper industry representatives. DNR staff expressed a reluctance to endanger their "good working relationship" with the paper industry.
1997--- The Governor issued press releases stating that the mills were "voluntarily donating $10 million to clean-up the Fox River."
1997--- In the summer, the state and federal governments, and tribal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to negotiate a settlement with the polluters.
2003--- In January, the Intergovernmental Partners announced a partial Record of Decision for the upstream half of the Fox River (from Little Lake Butte des Morts to Little Rapids), and held one public informational meeting in Appleton to answer public questions. The agencies ignored all the comments provided by Clean Water Action Council's technical advisors, and proposed roughly the same project proposed the year before. The cleanup will not protect public health or wildlife.
2003--- On the same night as the Appleton meeting, the Intergovernmental Partners announced a new surprise partial $4 million settlement from Georgia-Pacific Corporation, to be used for detailed sediment characterization and remedial design for the downstream half of the Fox River.
“In the Fox River and Green Bay area, injuries to wildlife (due to PCB’s) are well documented. They include cancer in walleye, deformities in terns, and fatalities to un-hatched bald eagles, Forster’s terns, common terns, and double-crested cormorants. These injuries have resulted in consumption advisories for every species of sport fish, and waterfowl consumption advisories for mallard ducks.”
(David Allen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
The Fox River and bay bottom sediments are badly contaminated with thousands of pounds of the toxic chemical better known as PCB’s. These chemicals have flowed downstream and spread throughout the Green Bay area threatening both wildlife and public health. In fact, up to 70% of all waterborne PCB's in Lake Michigan come from the Fox River. Scientists believe that several kinds of Great Lake fish may have gone extinct in the 1950’s due to reproductive failure caused by chlorinated compounds such as PCB’s.
PCB inflicted diseases caused in birds include:
• Behavioral Abnormalities
– Impaired Mating Behavior
• Cancer and Genetic Mutations
– Chromosome Alteration
• Physiological Malfunction
– Eggshell thinning
– Altered endocrine status
– Reduced Reproduction
• Physical deformities
– Small beak and eyes
– Skeletal Deformities
Human Health Effects
PCB’s are found throughout the Fox River area in the air, soil, water, and wildlife. PCB’s can be contacted by humans by eating the animals from the bay area and breathing the contaminated air. It can also be absorbed through the skin by swimming in the polluted water or handing the polluted soil.
Some PCB’s have properties like dioxin, some act like hormones, and other are nerve poisons. PCB’s alter major systems in the body (immune, hormone, nervous, and enzyme systems); therefore, they affect a wide variety of bodily organs and functions. The Federal Government banned the manufacture of PCB’s in 1979 because of concerns about potential risks to human health and environment.
The effects of PCB’s are split into 2 main categories: cancer related risks and non – cancer related risks.
Cancer Related Risks
Several government and health agencies consider PCB’s a “probable carcinogen” for humans and a “known carcinogen” for animals (based on numerous animal studies). All PCB mixtures cause cancer in animals. Government agencies generally require larger and more repeated studies before declaring a substance a “know carcinogen” in humans
The risks associated with consumption of fish containing high levels of PCB’s are more than 1,000 times greater than the standard 1-in-a-million cancer risk level used by Wisconsin to regulate hazardous waste sites.
Types of cancer caused by PCBs:
• Liver and Gall Bladder and Biliary Cancer
• Tract Cancer
• Skin Cancer
• Brain Cancer
• Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
• Pancreatic Cancer
• Lung Cancer
• Kidney Cancer
• Prostate Cancer
• Breast Cancer
Non-Cancer Related Risks
• Health problems in children
• Immune system damage
• Thyroid Function
• Parkinson’s Disease
• Depression and other emotional disorders
• Peripheral Neuropathy
• Spinal Degeneration and Arthritis
• Heart Disease
• Skin Absorption and damage
• Liver Damage
• Reproductive and sexual imparities
• Hearing Damage
• Loss of sense of smell
There are several risks strictly associated with children and unborn fetuses. These in clued:
• Neurological Damage
• Immune System Damage
• Low Birth Weight
• Shorter Gestation Period
• Smaller Heads at Birth
• Impaired of Slowed Growth
How we can prevent getting PCB's
PCB’s are found throughout the Fox River area in the air, soil, water, and wildlife. PCB’s can be contacted by humans through: eating animals from the bay area, breathing contaminated air, and skin absorption by swimming in polluted water and handling polluted soil. To prevent PCB absorption, humans must be careful of where the fish they are eating are coming from, and pay attention to where they are swimming, breathing, and handling soil.
Don’t Eat the Animals
"Those who eat fish from lower Green Bay and below the DePere Dan face a cancer risk due to PCB’s equal to smoking two to three packs of cigarettes a day."
–Dr. Jeffery Foran, toxicologist
Fish, ducks, and other animals eat smaller fish and insects with high levels of PCB’s. Even small levels of PCB’s in water concentrate to high levels in fish and other mammals. This building or gathering of PCB’s through the food chain causes the toxic chemicals to build up to dangerous levels in larger fish and mammals. Humans in turn eat the fish and waterfowl from the area and come in direct contact with PCB’s.
PCB's rise off the surface of the Fox River and Green Bay and contaminate
The air blows downwind, polluting other areas such as Canada and the Great Lakes.
Medical studies have been carried out and it has been proven that PCB’s can be rapidly and excessively absorbed through the skin. This raises concerns for people swimming in the Fox River and Green Bay area and for the people handling PCB contaminated sediments or topsoil from the area.
There are three possible treatments that can be used in cleaning up the PCB contamination in the Fox River. The three options are 1) Dredging 2) Capping and 3) Natural Recovery.
Dredging actually removes all of the contamination that resides in an environment. It utilized big machinery that scrape up all of the hazardous sedimentation and it is permanently removed. It is a very positive option, however, there is much deliberation where to store the hazardous material after it is removed.
This technique covers the hazardous sediment with one foot of sand and gravel. It is much less expensive than dredging, but it leaves many areas "unsealed." This treatment option is only temporary and will not suit as a long-term fix.
3) Natural Recovery
As it's name implies, it leaves the contamination in place and relies on natural chemical and biological processes to degrade the hazardous material. This technique does not cost a penny, however it is a very inefficient clean up method.
It is evident that PCBs cannot be disposed of in nature and they could persist in their current environment for centuries. Natural recovery does rely on sun degradation, however, the sunlight transforms PCBs only to other forms. This option still leaves public health threatened and the possibility of the contamination spreading over a larger area.
Current Proposed Plan Outlined
–7 paper companies to split cost
–Will clean up 7 mile segment of Fox River
–Upstream Cleaned First
–Downstream (more contaminated ) Cleaned Second
–7 million cubic yards to be dredged
•Then treated and sent to landfill
–Rest of river to rely on natural recovery
–Dredge 6.4 million cubic yards
•Equivalent to 61,000 pounds of PCBs
–Pipe to new landfill in Holland, WI
Finally found decision after 30 years of deliberation
Actually removing some PCBs from Fox River
Proposed cleanup standard is 1ppm
- This is not an adequate level for the protection of public health
Leaves majority of PCBs in water
Next 20 years the fish will remain contaminated
100 years from now, natural recovery will finally have cleaned the river
Holland will be newly contaminated with PCBs in air
Plan still open for changes
A study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the 7 paper companies owe the public in Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan between $177 and $333 million in compensation and restoration costs. This focuses mainly on financial loss due to recreation and currently active fishers. This plan doesn’t take into account other important economic damages.
There are economic damages NOT taken into account:
–Don’t fish in the area due to PCB contamination
–Fish are too contaminated with PCB’s to sell
–Strict consumption advisories due to PCB’s
–Must purchase store bought fish and poultry
–High matinance cost due to disposal rules from sediments dredged from shipping channels and boat slips
–Expensive pipelines and dwindling groundwater
–Beaches closed because of contamination
–Bird watching and other wildlife enjoyment activities have been harmed
–As population increases, so do damages
–Homes, businesses and public properties devalued
–The service is not allowed to by law to include losses due to human health. Private civil action may be required to receive compensation.
We would like to thank the
following for supplying this information and would like to encourage you to
visit the following sites:
EPA Fox River Watch Earth Crash Earth Spirit
Earth Crash Earth Spirit Washington State Environmental Health Department
OSU Conneticut State Health Department Journal of Chemical Education