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In an electric arc, PCBs generate incombustible gases.
Use of PCBs is commonly divided into closed and open applications.
Other physical and chemical properties vary widely across the class.
As the degree of chlorination increases, melting point and lipophilicity increase, and vapour pressure and water solubility decrease.
Aroclor 1016 was prepared by the fractional distillation of Aroclor 1242, which excluded the higher boiling (i.e., more highly chlorinated) congeners.
Different Aroclors were used at different times and for different applications.
Some PCBs share a structural similarity and toxic mode of action with dioxin.
The maximum allowable contaminant level in drinking water in the United States is set at zero, but because of the limitations of water treatment technologies, a level of 0.5 parts per billion is the de facto level.
The only North American producer, Monsanto Company, marketed PCBs under the trade name Aroclor from 1930 to 1977.
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 .
In electrical equipment manufacturing in the USA, Aroclor 1260 and Aroclor 1254 were the main mixtures used before 1950; Aroclor 1242 was the main mixture used in the 1950s and 1960s until it was phased out in 1971 and replaced by Aroclor 1016.
Another estimate put the total global production of PCBs on the order of 1.5 million tons.
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PCBs have entered the environment through both use and disposal.