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Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) have been recognized by the EPA as an environmental hazard. The EPA has concluded that PCBs are toxic and persistent. Once released into the environment, PCBs do not readily break down. Instead, they may accumulate in the environment and have the potential to migrate through the food chain.

PCBs are produced by the chlorination of "biphenyl." One to ten hydrogen atoms of biphenyl can be replaced with chlorine atoms. Given all the possible arrangements of chlorine atoms, there are 209 compounds that are classed as chlorinated biphenyls.

Commercial mixtures of PCBs were manufactured in the U.S. by the Monsanto Chemical Company and sold under the trade name of Aroclor. Aroclors 1260, 1254, and 1242 were most frequently used in electrical euipment. These Aroclor designations refer to the PCB mixture. Aroclor 1260 is 60% chlorine by weight, 1254 is 54% chlorine by weight and so on.

As insulating fluids in electrical equipment, Aroclors were seldom used in pure form, but were frequently mixed with fluids such as trichlorobenzene or tetrachlorobenzene. These Aroclor-fluid mixtures are generically called Askarels. Brand names for Askarels are shown below.

The EPA has classified electrical equipment and insulating fluids according to the level of PCB contamination. The EPA’s classifications of equipment and fluids are shown in the table below. Regulations set forth by the EPA have made it cost effective to determine the level of PCB contamination prior to disposal of eqipment or fluids. Delays caused by slow laboratory service may leave a repair shop idle while wating for PCB test results. Inaccurate determination can lead to an unnecessary increase in disposal costs. Prompt, reliable results are mandatory for PCB analysis.

EPA PCB Regulatory Limits

PCB Concentration Classification
Less Than 50 ppm Uncontaminated Equipment/Fluid
Greater Than 50, Less Than 500 PCB Contaminated Equipment/Fluid
Greater Than 500 PCB Equipment/Fluid


Only new, disposable glass vials with foil lined caps should be used for collecting samples. The volumes of the sample container may vary. We recommend and provide 7ml vials. Using a disposable pipette, fill the vial with sample. The cap should be tightly screwed onto the vial. Samples should be stored in a cool dark place until analyzed.

PCB analysis technical background

Manufacturers’ names used for PCBs

Askarel trade nameEquipment Manufacturer
Aroclor Monsanto
Asbestol American Corp.
Chlorextol Allis Chalmers
Diaclor Sangamo Electric
Dykanol Cornell Dubilier
Elemex McGraw Edison
Hyvol Aerovox
Inerteen Westinghouse Electric
No-Flamol Wagner Electric
Pyronol General Electric
Saf-T-Kuhl Kuhlman Electric
Clophen Bayer (Germany)
DK Caffaro (Italy)
Fenclor Caffaro (Italy)
Kennechlor Mitsubishi (Japan)
Phenoclor Prodelec (France)
Pyralene Prodelec (France)
Santotherm Mitsubishi (Japan)