Healthy School Environments
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Why It's Important
- PCBs are a type of chemical that were used in caulk, electronics, fluorescent light ballasts and other building materials from the 1950s to the late 1970s, until Congress banned their use in 1976. Schools built during this time may contain PCBs.
- Degrading light ballasts or caulk containing PCBs increase the risk of leaks or even fires, which would pose a health and environmental hazard.
- Health concerns related to PCB exposure include, but are not limited to, cancer and reproductive or neurological effects.
What You Can Do
- Replace old lighting systems manufactured with PCBs with energy-efficient systems.
- Reduce the potential for PCBs in indoor air by maintaining a proper ventilation system.
- Until it can be safely removed, limit exposure to caulk containing PCBs by:
- Keeping children from touching caulk or surfaces near it
- Washing children's toys often, and washing their hands with soap and water before eating
- Using wet cloths to clean surfaces and cleaning frequently to reduce dust
- Call EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Hotline at (888) 835-5372 to learn more about PCBs in caulk and to get information on PCB professionals in your area.
Find More From...
EPA and Federal Partners
- EPA's Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Building Materials page provides updated guidance for school administrators and building owners with information about managing PCBs in building materials to help minimize possible exposures to building occupants.
- Fact Sheets for Schools and Teachers about PCB-Contaminated Caulk from EPA provides information about PCBs in caulk used in some buildings, including schools, in the 1950s through the 1970s and offers suggestions on what to say to children about PCBs to encourage proper precautions. The website includes:
- PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts in School Buildings: A Guide for School Administrators and Maintenance Personnel from EPA provides information on the risks posed by PCBs in light ballasts, how to properly handle and dispose of these items and how to properly retrofit school lighting fixtures to remove potential PCB hazards.
- PCBs in Caulk in Older Buildings on the EPA website offers background information, steps to minimize exposure, testing methods and a schools information kit.
- EPA's Regional PCB Coordinators oversee the development of PCB efforts in their region and assist with policies and practices.
- PCBs in Schools: Resource List by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities offers an annotated list of links, books and journal articles on identifying, assessing and removing PCBs from school facilities.
- PCBs in Schools on the Center for Health, Environment & Justice website describes the risks posed by PCBs and links to sources for more information and to take action.
- How Local Health Departments Can Help Reduce the Risk of Exposure to PCBs in Older School Buildings by the National Association of County and City Health Officials identifies strategies to reduce exposure risks in partnership with schools and other public agencies.
Regional, State and Local Resources
- Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments by EPA provides an overview of issues related to PCBs in caulk and fluorescent light ballasts in schools.