New Environmental Concern: PCBs In Caulk

Posted: April 11, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release on September 25, 2009 stating that buildings built or renovated between 1950 and 1978 may have PCBs at high levels in caulk. Congress banned the manufacture and most uses of PCBs in 1976 and they were phased out in 1978.  However, there are many buildings across the country constructed or renovated during the period of 1950 – 1978 that have PCBs at high levels in the caulk around windows and door frames, between masonry columns and in other masonry building materials. Exposure to these PCBs may occur as a result of direct contact with the caulk or the release of PCB’s from the caulk into the air, dust, surrounding surfaces and soil.

Exposure to PCBs is a serious health concern, so disturbance of caulk in buildings built or renovated between 1950 – 1978 must be handled carefully to avoid exposure to persons performing work and secondarily to other occupants or bystanders.  EPA recommends that owners implement steps to minimize exposure to potentially contaminated caulk.

The EPA suggests that building owners and facility managers should test caulk to determine if it is PCB-containing.  If a building has PCBs in caulk, then air testing inside the building should proceed to determine if PCB levels in the air exceed EPA’s suggested public health levels.

For buildings that were constructed or renovated between1950 and 1978 that are planning renovations and/or repairs today (replacing windows, doors, roofs, ventilation, etc.), EPA recommends that PCB-containing caulk be carefully and properly removed. It is critically important to ensure that PCBs are not released into the air, soil or surrounding environment during replacement or repair of caulk. Simple, commonsense work practices can prevent the release of PCBs during renovation and repair operations.

Kynoch Environmental Management can work with you to develop a practical approach to test caulk for PCBs, to test air for PCB exposure and to develop programs that will reduce exposure to PCBs, including the removal of contaminated caulk.

More information on PCBs in caulk: http://www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk