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PCBs have entered the environment through both use and disposal.
The environmental fate of PCBs is complex and global in scale.
Other physical and chemical properties vary widely across the class.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), rendered PCBs as definite carcinogens in humans. Many rivers and buildings including schools, parks, and other sites are contaminated with PCBs, and there have been contaminations of food supplies with the substances.
It is unlikely that a full inventory of global PCB production will ever be accurately tallied, as there were factories in Poland, East Germany, and Austria that produced unknown amounts of PCBs.
The utility of PCBs is based largely on their chemical stability, including low flammability and high dielectric constant.
There are 209 different chemical compounds in which one to ten chlorine atoms can replace hydrogen atoms.
PCBs are typically used as mixtures of compounds and are given the single identifying CAS number 1336-36-3 .
Thus, Aroclor 1260 has 12 carbon atoms and contains 60% chlorine by mass.