Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated sites around the world affect human health for many years, showing long latency periods of health effects. The impact of the different PCB congeners on human health should not be underestimated, as they are ubiquitous, stable molecules and reactive in biological tissues, leading to neurological, endocrine, genetic, and systemic adverse effects in the human body. Moreover, bioaccumulation of these compounds in fatty tissues of animals (e.g., fish and mammals) and in soils/sediments, results in chronic exposure to these substances. Efficient destruction methods are important to decontaminate polluted sites worldwide. This paper provides an in-depth overview of (i) the history and accidents with PCBs in the 20th century, (ii) the mechanisms that are responsible for the hazardous effects of PCBs, and (iii) the current policy regarding PCB control and decontamination. Contemporary impacts on human health of historical incidents are discussed next to an up to date overview of the health effects caused by PCBs and their mechanisms. Methods to decontaminate sites are reviewed. Steps which lead to a policy of banning the production and distribution of PCBs are overviewed in a context of preventing future accidents and harm to the environment and human health.
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