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PCB Regulations in European Union

Monday, February 22, 2016

PCB’s have long been recognised as posing a threat to the environment because of their toxicity, persistence and tendency to bioaccumulate (i.e. to build up in the bodies of animals, particularly at the top of the food chain). Although the use of PCBs has been reduced greatly since the 1970s it is recognised that those still remaining in existing equipment pose a continuing environmental threat.

In European Union, about Polychlorinated Byphenils (PCBs) is regulated through EC Directive 96/59 EC on the disposal of PCBs and Polychlorinated Terphenils (PCTs), which requires the preparation of national inventories and the labelling/disposal of all PCB holdings.

Also there are European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations)(Marketing and Use) Regulations 2003.[1] These regulations implement Council Directives 85/467/EEC and 89/677/EEC in relation to polychlorinated biphenyls (except mono and dichlorinated biphenyls), PCTs, and preparations, including waste oils, with a PCB or PCT weight content higher than 0.005%. These substances may not be used, except in designated applications that were in service prior to 30 June 1986. Equipment and plant containing PCBs or PCTs are required to display instructions concerning disposal and maintenance and use of equipment and plant containing them.

Member states then implement this directive into their municipal laws and regulations.

Below are laws and regulations about PCBs in several member states of EU :

United Kingdom
1.      The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare of all their employees at work. You are required to co-operate with your employer, for example by using safety equipment and working methods as instructed.
2.      The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994 (COSHH) place duties on employer to:
·         ensure that your exposure to PCBs is either prevented, or if this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled;
·         assess the risks to your health from PCBs and identify the measures which are needed to protect your health;
·         ensure that control measures are adequate and that you use them;
·         monitor your exposure;
·         provide you with information on the risks of PCBs and the steps which are necessary to protect your health.
Employer also have duties under COSHH to:
·         co-operate with your employer;
·         use protective measures and to report any defects.
3.      The Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires, amongst other things, waste holders to exercise a duty of care when disposing of certain materials.[2]


The Waste Management (Hazardous Waste) Regulations 1998[3] of Ireland implement provisions of the EC Directive (96/59/EC) and sets out the requirements in terms of disposing of PCBs and registering holdings of PCBs. A holder of PCBs, used PCBs or contaminated equipment must:
1.      Decontaminate or dispose of used PCBs, contaminated equipment and the PCBs contained in such equipment as soon as possible. For contaminated equipment containing more than 5dm3 (5 litres) of PCBs:
·         By 31 December 2010, if the fluid content contains more than 0.05% by weight of PCBs. Transformers containing more than 0.05% by weight of PCBs must be decontaminated in accordance with a specific set of conditions;
·         At the end of its useful life if the fluid content contains between 0.005% and 0.05% by weight of PCBs.
2.      Label equipment containing more than 5 litres of PCBs and the doors of premises where such equipment is located. The labels must be indelible, easily visible and legible, stating that the equipment (or premises contain equipment) is “Contaminated by PCBs”. Where it is reasonable to assume that the fluid content of the equipment contains between 0.005% and 0.05% by weight of PCBs label as "PCBs contaminated 0.05%".
3.      Separate such PCBs or equipment from flammable materials and take precautions to avoid any risk of fire
4.      Operate a source separation program for equipment that contains less than 5 liters of PCBs and is a component of another piece of equipment, i.e., remove and arrange for the separate collection of such components with a view to their recovery or disposal.
5.      Give Notice to the EPA for all PCBs, used PCBs or contaminated equipment containing more than 5 litres of PCBs no later than the 1 September each year. To include: the name and address of the holder; the location and quantity of the PCBs or used PCBs; the location and description of the equipment; the quantity of PCBs contained in such equipment; the measures taken or proposed to be taken for the decontamination or disposal; and the date of giving such notice.
6.      Respect the prohibition of certain uses of PCBs:
o Importation, production or supply to another person of PCBs or contaminated equipment;
o Holding or use of PCBs or contaminated equipment, unless notified to the EPA;
o Separation of PCBs from other substances for the purpose of reusing the PCBs;
o Addition of PCBs to transformers or other equipment; and
o Maintenance of transformers containing PCBs, unless under certain circumstances

[1] “S.I. No. 220/2003 - European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) Regulations 2003,” accessed February 23, 2016, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2003/si/220/made/en/print.
[2] “HSE - Publications: Do You Know How to Work Safely with PC...,” accessed February 23, 2016, http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/msa19.htm.
[3] “S.I. No. 163/1998 - Waste Management (Hazardous Waste) Regulations, 1998,” accessed February 23, 2016, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1998/si/163/made/en/print.