PCB accumulation growing, report shows

There are nearly 7.5 million items containing polychlorinated biphenyls and over 170,000 tons of PCB-contaminated materials in storage waiting to be neutralized, according to an in-depth survey released by the Environment Ministry on Wednesday.

The study, conducted via the prefectures, is designed to form the foundation for safely disposing of the carcinogenic chemicals once processing plants are up and running.

The government must get rid of all PCBs by 2015 under a special law passed in July 2001 to promote eradication of the carcinogen.

A similar study in 1998 found around 4.37 million PCB-containing items and 137,252 tons of PCB-polluted materials. It also found that nearly 16.6 percent of high-voltage transformers and condensers listed as stockpiled by companies in 1992 were unaccounted for, with a shade over 4 percent lost.

Ministry officials said they did not inquire about lost items because, by law, companies are responsible for looking after PCB-laden equipment and materials. The new study, it said, will set a new baseline for future reference.

Officials attributed the jump in the two categories to a rise in awareness that coincided with the passage of the PCB law and more thorough surveys.

The items in the survey included high- as well as low-voltage transformers and condensers, transformers used in electronic products and utility poles, as well as PCB oil, paper, contaminated fabric, and sludge.

Other data the ministry received show there are PCB-filled items still in use. A more definitive survey is being carried out by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry but is not yet available.

In a related move, the ministry on Thursday will approve Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, as the second city after Kitakyushu to host a PCB-processing plant. It will handle products from Gifu, Shizoku, Aichi and Mie prefectures.