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What Are PCBs?

Pace Analytical PCB Testing and AnalysisPolychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), all of which are man-made, are among the most stable organic compounds known. There are 209 distinct PCB compounds (known as congeners) with from 1 to 10 chlorine atoms on a biphenyl molecule. The number and placement of the chlorine atoms on the biphenyl molecule determines how the congener is named. It also dictates its toxicity. PCBs generally occur as mixtures of congeners; the most common commercial mixtures are called Aroclors. Aroclor names reflect the percent chlorine (by weight) of the mixture. For example, the Aroclor 1242 is 42% chlorine by weight, with the more chlorinated mixtures generally being the most persistent and toxic.

Congeners vs. Aroclor Analysis (Water/Soil/Tissue)

Pace® has experience with several methodologies for both total PCB Aroclor and PCB Congener Specific analysis. Historically, PCB Aroclor analysis is the most commonly and widely used methodology for the testing of PCB. However, with the improvement of laboratory techniques over the past 65 years and the introduction of environmental toxicology, investigators/regulators are looking closer at individual congeners. With investigations of individual PCB congeners, a shift in analysis has occurred from total Aroclor analysis to Congener Specific analysis with “Total PCB.”

Generally, Congener-specific analyses offer lower detection limits and a higher information content than do Aroclor analyses. The cons of using congener-specific analyses include cost and the general lack of toxicity data for most congeners. To ensure the best analysis selection, the Pace® team will discuss the reporting criteria needs for each site being evaluated to assist in guiding the best selection of either Aroclor or congener-specific methods.

PCB Testing Services (Water/Soil/Tissue)

When analyzing for PCBs, three main types of instrumentation are used. The most common and generally considered the workhorse of PCB analysis is gas chromatography-electron capture detection (GC-ECD), the next instrument is gas chromatography (GC) with low resolution, electron ionization mass spectrometry (MS), and in recent years the industry has added the most sensitive instrument thus far for PCB congener analysis ― Gas Chromatography coupled with High Resolution Mass Spectrometry HRGC/HRMS. The Pace® Laboratory network offers all this instrumentation along with supporting methodology and expertise.

PCBs in Air

As we spend a significant amount of time indoors, both at work and at home, the quality of air inside our living and workspaces is paramount to our health. The EPA recommends that the concentrations of PCBs in indoor air be kept as low as reasonably achievable.

Three of the primary methods for indoor air PCBs analysis are:

  • Low Volume Sampler – TO4-A
  • High Volume Sampler – TO-10A
  • NIOSH 5503

Recently many commercial real estate buildings and schools have discovered high levels of PCBs. Pace® has extensive experience testing for the presence of PCBs present. Contact our air team to learn more.

Partner With Pace®

At Pace®, we understand the complex issues in setting up, managing, and working with a PCB site/program. Our project managers help you select the best/affordable PCB analysis options. While virtually all the Pace laboratories offer routine PCB Aroclor analysis, we have 3 specialty PCB laboratories which have worked extensively with PCBs, have developed and/or modified methodologies to meet project specific needs, and offer a higher level of regulatory and analytical expertise in dealing with PCBs.

Contact Us to discuss your project.