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Could It Be PCB?

There may be PCB ballasts behind your old lighting

What Are PCBs?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic compounds with stable chemical properties and were widely used as a cooling agent in ballasts before the 1980s. They were excellent at this, which is why so many still turn up during lighting retrofits and maintenance. The PCBs prevent the ballast from overheating and failing. There is still a significant number of PCB ballasts in service in Ontario even though the import and sale (for re-use) of PCBs were made illegal in Canada in 1977. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are probable human carcinogens. PCBs have polluted our environment and need to stay out of our landfills.

Can PCB Ballasts Be Recycled?

The answer is no, PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) ballasts are not recyclable. Ballasts produced before 1979 are most likely to contain PCBs and were made illegal to produce in 1979 in the United States. PCB ballasts have turned up in the Greater Toronto area in buildings built as late as 1988, so the age of the building will not determine the presence of PCBs in the ballasts. If you have PCB ballasts powering your old fluorescent, you could unknowingly be operating an illegal PCB storage. The release to the environment of PCBs was made illegal in 1985. Amendments to the PCB Regulations came into force on January 1st, 2015, implementing deadlines on equipment already in use and in storage, in order to accelerate the elimination of PCBs from the Canadian environment.

What To Do If You Have PCBs

Burnt out PCB ballasts must be properly sealed in 50 gallon drums. They also need to be shipped using an approved shipping company to a regulated facility for incineration using special filters to reduce the toxic emissions. PCB ballasts used in Canada cannot cross the border to the United States, they must be incinerated within Canada.

Waste Diversion is a leading provider of efficient, cost effective and turn-key solutions that helps its clients divert universal, hard to recycle, and hazardous waste from landfills. Contact us at 416-495-9914 to dispose of your PCB ballasts now.

PCB Ballast Facts

  • PCB ballasts are considered hazardous waste in Ontario
  • PCB ballasts usually have a yellow label (see picture)
  • PCBs last a very long time and ballasts containing PCBs are highly durable (ie: have a service life of up to 50 years)
  • If burned, PCBs can produce dioxins and furans (highly carcinogenic compounds)
  • PCBs are toxic to fish at very low levels
  • PCBs were widely used in Canada, but were never manufactured in Canada
  • PCB ballasts cannot be recycled
  • Ballasts produced after 1978 are considered to be PCB free

Does It Apply To You?

PCBs and products containing PCBs can be found in the following sectors:

  • Buildings with electrical equipment that has been in place since 1982
  • Electrical utilties
  • Commercial facilities
  • Government facilities
  • Oil and gas industries
  • Pulp and paper industries
  • Mining and mineral industries
  • Iron and steel manufacturing
  • Institutional facilities (ie hospitals, schools)
  • Food and feed processing industries
  • Drinking water treatment plants


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3800 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2H 3H7