Dioxins, Furans, PCBs (contain phenyl rings of carbon atoms)

Dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of similar chlorinated aromatic organic compounds. Dioxins have two phenyl rings connected by two oxygen atoms. Furans have one or two phenyl rings connected to a furan ring. PCBs have two phenyl rings attached at one point. One or more chlorine atoms can attach to any available carbon atom, allowing for 100 - 200 forms of each. Dioxins and dioxin-like furans have no known commercial or natural use. They are produced primarily during the incineration or burning of waste; the bleaching processes used in pulp and paper mills; and the chemical syntheses of trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, hexachlorophene, vinyl chloride, trichlorophenol, and pentachlorophenol. PCBs were once synthesized for use as heat-exchanger, transformer, and hydraulic fluids, and also used as additives to paints, oils, window caulking, and floor tiles. Production of PCBs peaked in the early 1970s and was banned in the United States after 1979.

Page last reviewed: August 14, 2008