In line with its commitment to the Stockholm Convention, Sri Lanka is working to protect the environment and human health from the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other man-made chemicals known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
PCBs were commercially produced worldwide on a large scale between the 1930s and 1980s, and have been used in many industrial applications such as electricity transformers and capacitors. However, PCBs have dangerous effects on the environment and human health. They are carcinogenic and have been linked to developmental disorders in children.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment (MMDE) is working with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to introduce and implement a PCB management system to eliminate releases from PCB waste stockpiles and equipment containing PCBs.
One part of this Global Environment Facility-funded project addresses a major challenge presented by a lack of public awareness of the dangers posed by PCBs. One particular area of concern is that potentially contaminated used oil from electricity transformers is being sold to welders, garage owners and people using oil for domestic purposes.
Investigations by People to People Volunteers (PTPV), a non-governmental organization in Sri Lanka, found that transformer oil is being used as a coolant in many of the country’s welding plants. Due to lack of awareness of the ill-effects of PCBs, there is a strong possibility of self- and cross-contamination among welders and their families.