Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
What is Hexachlorobenzene?
HCB is a white crystalline solid which was commonly used as a pesticide until 1965. In the past, HCB was also used as a fungicide to protect seeds of wheat and for a variety of industrial purposes. HCB is a persistent, bioacculumative, and toxic (PBT) pollutants target by EPA.
Why Are We Concerned About HCB?
Because HCB is persistent and bioaccumulative, it stays in our environment for a long time and contaminates our food chain. HCB can cause severe health problems for humans and other wildlife.
What harmful effects can HCB have on us?
- Damages bones, kidneys, and blood cells
- Can harm the immune system
- Lowers the survival rates of young children
- Can cause abnormal fetal development
- Harms the liner, endocrine, and nervous system
- May cause cancer
How are we exposed to HCB?
- Infants exposed through breast milk
- During pregnancy, unborn children can be exposed through the mother's blood stream
- By eating foods such as meat and poultry if those animals are exposed from contaminated feed
- By drinking dairy products where the cattle have been exposed through their feed
- By eating contaminated fish and shellfish
- Breathed in in urban air
Where can HCB be found?
Although HCB is no longer directly used, it is still found in our environment as a by-product of certain activities and because of past use.
- Used to make fireworks and ammunition
- Used to manufacture synthetic rubber
- Used as a fungicide to protect wheat and other seeds
Potential Sources to our Environment:
- By-product when making other chlorine-containing compounds
- Found in water sediments
- By-product when manufacturing some pesticides
- Use of HCB-contaminated pesticides
- Found in chlorination treatment of process water and wastewater
- Incineration of municipal and hazardous wastes
- By-product when making chemical solvents (chemicals used to dissolve other chemicals)