Pole transformer exploded - danger from burning transformer oil w/ pcbs?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Probedude, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. Probedude

    Probedude New Member

    Messages:
    137
    Location:
    CA
    Yesterday a pole transformer blew up across the street in my neighborhood.

    Afterwards the transformer smoked then burned for maybe an hour and a half. Neighborhood was quite smelly from oil burning.

    Hazmat came out that night, then Edison came and changed the transformer.
    Today I see another Hazmat team showed up along with a special dumpster - I guess they've still got stuff to clean.

    Anyone know what if any concern my family should have for smelling this burning transformer yesterday if the oil had PCB's in it? Neighborhood was built ~1964 and given the amount of detail they've given with the hazmat team I'm guessing PCB's were in the oil.

    Dave
  2. rgsgww

    rgsgww New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Ia
    I don't think there is much of a "pcb" concern. Those pole transformers rarely had any pcbs in them, mostly mineral oil, etc.

    Even with the burning oil, you would have to be exposed to the oil, smoke, etc. for long periods of time and in high concentrations to have any health problems.

    Hazmat came out because of the oil.
  3. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    You should probably move. :cool: ;)
  4. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,348
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    pole transfomers have had no PCBs in long long time.
  5. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2008
  6. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    So what are you saying Thatguy? That even though it has been said that no PCBs were present there is still the possibility of future disease because of this one exposure to smoke????

    Even if there were pcbs the level of exposure and exposure time were minuscule.
  7. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina

    Below is the result of something that went wrong with electrical transmission

    [​IMG]

    The power station, which rendered the town uninhabitable for centuries, looms on the horizon, two-and-half kilometres away. Photos by Phil Coomes


    yes I would have concerns. You can see the full details and pictures of the city above by clicking here
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2008
  8. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    PCBs were "good" until we found that they were bad. This new xformer stuff will be good until we find it is bad.
    When there is tissue cell damage on a molecular level it may take 20 years to show up.
    I'm still waiting for the delayed effects of extensive cell phone usage to make themselves known (I don't have one).

    I'm saying that, whatever the truth is, even if someone [or some computer model] knows what the truth is, the homeowner won't be told. Neither will the workers who are dealing with this stuff, daily.

    By the way, if you ever looked at side effects for medicine: by the time you get down to the ". . .1% of the users may have. . ." level, the (mostly serious) side effects occupy a whole paragraph.
    The less people have the side effect, the more side effects there are to have.

    And, speaking of agencies as "protecting the public good", does the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fit this guy's theory (theory in this sense meaning "a body of science")?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_(politics)
    How 'bout the FDA? The SEC?
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2008
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Bulletin: World not safe


    Scientists have determined that the world is not a safe place to live. Religious leaders say "Get over it". Price of caves and treehouse to rise. Film @ 11:00.
  10. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
  11. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    From one instance of smelling the smoke from a transformer that burned on a pole outside your house?????

    I can see a fireman who is overcome by smoke and is rendered unconscious more than a few times in his career. Or someone who works with the nasty stuff for 20 years.
    One instance of smelling smoke is absolutely a Chicken Little mentality. Like I said earlier, they should move far away from that home and don't tell the people buying it what happened. :rolleyes:

    You ever smell the odor left behind when an old ballast burns up? I have. Many times. I've also unknowingly rubbed up against asbestos pipe insulation a few times.
    If I die @ 85 from PCB absorption or asbestosis. I'll be sure to let you know you were right. :p
  12. Probedude

    Probedude New Member

    Messages:
    137
    Location:
    CA
    Thanks for the replies. Two of my neighbors works for Edison (and there are about 4 others that live in our development (odd there's that many but Edison does have a office/plant about 1/2 a mile down the road from me). I'll have to ask one of them if they know that the transformer had PCBs in it.

    I'm not one that subscribes to silly fears, I'm the rational one in our family. The wife on the other hand - she's easily gets concerned over stuff that shouldn't be worried about. I'm just building up info for when she's told by someone else that there were BURNING pcb's in the air that day (the smell was pretty strong).

    As far as "pole transformers have not had PCB's for a long time ", as I mentioned this tract was built in 1964 and I'm guessing the transformers are original. I know that the house I grew up in, that house was built in 1965, we moved into it in 1969 and I know that it never had the transformer replaced.

    Found some info in this doc.
    http://www.epa.gov/region8/toxics/pcb/pcbidmgmt.pdf

    "Transformers, capacitors, fluorescent light ballasts, and cable
    manufactured in the United States after July 2, 1979 should not contain PCBs."

    That's not that long ago.
  13. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    The built-in maximum lifespan for humans is 85, so the cause of death at that point might be a matter of opinion.

    I found an interesting thing, looking up mortality rates in the U.S. for a male smoker who worked with me. The text in parens is my opinion.
    Nobody dies at 16 from smoking (they haven't done it long enough) and nobody dies at 90 from smoking (because they would have already died from it if they are going to). The maximum likelihood of death from smoking for males was at age ~45.

    With us being in the last stages of civilization (apathy or dependence) and rocket fuel in mother's milk and global warming, we may already killed ourselves and we don't know it yet.
    :D
  14. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,348
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    Been exposed to all of the above,worked at the fernald urainum plant
    for 8hrs and got a letter 6months later that they wanted to do complete
    physical exam of and every thing I've been exposed to through out my
    entire career in the building trades,this 30 yrs of stuff and found that
    I am in good health for my age.50 plusyrs.:)
  15. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Yeah, that global warming is gonna do it! How many places are experiencing record COLD this month. Did anyplace experience record WARM temps this summer?

    Forget the rocket fuel. I AM worried about the melamine that China is sneaking in to everything they send us! Those bastards will get us, if the rag heads don't get us first!

    Merry Bleeping Christmas!
  16. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

    Messages:
    294
    Location:
    Brooklyn NY
    that's all great if a giant asteroid doesn't smash into us. :eek:
  17. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    I rather suspect there are a large number of PCB filled transformers still out there. I don't believe there was a requirement to replace existing equipment and they don't replace until it breaks.

    Replacing all transformers manufactured before 1979 would bankrupt the utilities.
  18. Probedude

    Probedude New Member

    Messages:
    137
    Location:
    CA
    From what I could Google, this is true for Canada (or at least one jurisdiction) - it does not need to be replaced unless it is defective or fails.

    What I couldn't find was a similar statement for the US, but I did see something about PCB's were never used to fill pole transformers. Lots of info out there that is contradictory.

    Haven't talked to our Edison neighbors yet but we are going to the house of one of them for New Years Eve.
  19. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    I have always believed the old pole pigs had PCBs. Also oil filled capacitors of many sizes.
  20. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    NYC set a new record high, about a week ago.

    The first 2 pages of a google news search turned up record highs last week, for:

    Dallas, Texas.
    Louisville, Kentucky.
    Denver, Colorado.
    Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
    Kalamazoo, Michigan.
    Providence, Rhode Island.
    Lawrence, Kansas.
    Coshocton, Ohio.
    Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Morristown, Tennessee.

    Not that any of this has any relevance whatsoever to Global Warming Theory - which is about global average temperature, not isolated single incidents cherry-picked to make political points.
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