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Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Other Toxic Substances

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and subsequent amendments authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require manufacturers, importers, and processors of chemical substances and/or mixtures to follow reporting, record keeping, and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures to assure they do not present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics, and pesticides. TSCA addresses the manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, use, and disposal of specific chemicals including, but not limited to, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, lead-based paint, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and radon.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) belong to a broad family of synthetic organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until manufacturing was banned in 1979. They have a range of toxicity and vary in consistency from thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids. Due to their nonflammability, chemical stability, high boiling point, and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including:

  • Electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment;
  • Plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products;
  • Pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper;
  • Other industrial applications.

PCBs may still be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. They can be released into the environment from poorly maintained waste sites that contain PCBs, illegal dumping, or leaks or releases from electrical transformers containing PCBs. Proper management of PCBs is necessary to prevent negative impacts to humans, wildlife, and the environment.

Indiana has adopted most of the federal PCB regulations in 40 CFR 761. The state PCB rules are located in Title 329, Article 4.1, of the Indiana Administrative Code (329 IAC 4.1 [PDF]). Through partnership with U.S. EPA, IDEM conducts PCB inspections in order to determine compliance. Disposal of PCBs from a source containing concentration greater than 50 ppm need a permit either under TSCA PCB regulations or under RCRA hazardous waste rules, if specifically approved.  TSCA permit are issued by U.S. EPA in coordination with IDEM. For questions related to PCBs, contact the Office of Land Quality Industrial Waste Compliance staff.


Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of fibers that can be separated into threads. It is used in building materials and friction products due to its strength, resistance to fire and heat, and inability to conduct electricity. Until the 1970s, many types of building materials, friction products, and insulation materials contained asbestos. Asbestos fibers may be released into the environment if the material becomes damaged (loose, crumbly, or water-damaged) or if the material is repaired or removed (sanded, sawed, cut, torn, frilled, or scraped) improperly. Inhaling asbestos fibers can result in serious and fatal illnesses. Asbestos-containing materials must be properly managed at demolition and renovation sites to prevent health risks and environmental impacts.

Federal and state regulations exist to reduce human exposure to airborne asbestos and minimize environmental impacts. Indiana’s requirements for asbestos inspection, notification, emission control and work practices, and waste disposal are detailed in the IDEM's Office of Air Quality: Asbestos site. Companies and individuals who generate regulated asbestos-containing materials (RACM) at facilities undergoing a demolition or renovation may be subject to special requirements for labeling, packaging, and waste shipment and disposal records. The solid waste disposal rules for generators of RACM are located in 329 IAC 10-8.2-4 [PDF].

For assistance with asbestos inspection, licensing, notification, or emission control and work practices requirements, contact the Office of Air Quality Asbestos section. For assistance with asbestos waste disposal regulations, contact the Office of Land Quality Solid Waste Compliance staff.

Lead-Based Paint

Lead is a naturally occurring element that is commonly used in the manufacture of building materials, lead-acid batteries, and a variety of products and applications. Buildings constructed before 1978 likely have lead-based paint under topcoats of nonlead-based paint or may even have lead-based paint as top coatings. If lead-based paint is disturbed by construction or damage, harmful dust is released into the air. Lead can be toxic to humans and animals and is particularly dangerous to children, who are exposed to it when they eat lead-based paint chips or inhale or ingest lead-based paint dust.

Federal laws exist that address lead in paint, dust, and soil; lead in the air; lead in water; and disposal of lead wastes. Additional information is available from the Indiana State Department of Health and the U.S. EPA Lead site. For assistance with lead-based paint removal requirements, contact the Office of Air Quality compliance staff. For the disposal of lead contaminated construction and demolition waste, contact OLQ Solid Waste Compliance staff.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of synthetic organic chemicals that contain fluorine. There are more than 3,000 PFAS. Because many PFAS have useful properties, some of them have been used since the 1940s in products like textiles, paper, cookware, firefighting foams, and electronics. Studies on animals suggest that some PFAS may be toxic. Research has not determined at what level these substances may be dangerous to humans, and research on the possible health effects of PFAS continues.

Though U.S. production of some of these chemicals has declined, many are still produced in other countries. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been among the most used PFAS. U.S. EPA is currently considering the addition of PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory, as well as rules to regulate exposures of certain PFAS chemicals. An overview of PFAS actions under the Toxic Substances Control Act is available on the U.S. EPA site. Additional information is available on the IDEM Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances page and the U.S. EPA PFAS site.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. It can be found all over the United States. Radon comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and it gets into the air people breathe. It tends to accumulate in enclosed structures, so it is particularly a problem in homes. Radon is estimated to cause thousands of deaths each year.

IDEM does not regulate radon but provides resources on the IDEM Community Environmental Health Radon page. The Indiana State Department of Health Lead & Healthy Homes Division issues licenses to radon testers and mitigators in Indiana and educates the public about radon and the need to test and fix homes. Local health departments also may manage indoor air quality issues.