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Current Best Practices for PCBs in Caulk Fact Sheet - Interim Measures for Assessing Risk and Taking Action to Reduce Exposures

Last Updated: December 2012

PCBs in caulk

EPA has learned that caulk containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was used in many buildings, including schools, during building construction, renovation, or repair from the 1950s through the late 1970s.

This fact sheet identifies for school system officials:

PCBs were not added to caulk after 1979. Therefore in general, schools built after 1979 do not contain PCBs in caulk. To date it has been found in buildings in the Northeast and Upper Midwest and in joints in concrete water storage basins in the western United States. Activities to address PCBs in caulk are underway in these areas. EPA is encouraging greater awareness of this issue so people can take steps to minimize potential exposure.

Exposure to PCBs can cause a variety of adverse health effects in animals and humans. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals, as well as a number of serious non-cancer health effects, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. In humans, PCBs are potentially cancer-causing and can cause other non-cancer effects as well. More information on the health effects of PCBs.

Please note that these are general guidelines. Different actions may be appropriate for different sites based on the PCB concentrations in air, and the condition and location of the caulk.

Test for PCBs that may be present in buildings built between 1950 and 1979

If school administrators and building owners of buildings built between 1950 and 1979 are concerned about exposure to PCBs from caulk, they should consider testing for PCBs in the air. If PCBs are found in the air, EPA will assist in developing a plan to reduce exposure and manage the caulk. Your EPA regional PCB coordinator can direct you to a PCB testing lab.

As part of EPA's overall effort to provide guidance to building owners concerning PCB containing caulk in buildings, EPA has produced three other fact sheets that address testing the air, and cleanup and disposal of caulk. These fact sheets can be found on EPA's website at: www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk.

Key steps to assess PCBs in caulk

To assess the situation at any given building, consider the following four factors:

1. Review and analyze any available test data on the concentration of PCBs in the air, soil or in the caulk, and other building materials, including records about construction or the product or when it was installed. Read EPA's fact sheet on Testing for PCBs in Caulk and Buildings.

2. Assess the location and condition of the caulk including if pieces of caulk have it been tracked or fallen into surrounding areas such as a playground adjacent to the building or other rooms in the building. Areas that should be assessed include:

3. Determine the potential for human exposure to the caulk (e.g., whether it is in an area where people can readily come in contact with it).

Frequency and duration of exposure

The extent of exposure to PCBs in caulk is determined by the concentration of PCBs in the air, the surface area exposed; and the frequency and duration of contact with the caulk, or with PCBs in the air that have been released from caulk, or some other PCB-containing source. For each place at the school or other building where there is caulk or another emitting source, consider the potential for release of PCBs (for caulk a product of the concentration and exposed area); frequency (how often the contact occurs) and duration (length of time of each contact) of exposure.

Read EPA's fact sheet on Testing for PCBs in Caulk in Buildings.

4. Identify interim actions to minimize exposure

Caulk that contains PCBs at greater than 50 ppm is not authorized for continued use and must be removed. Although you are not required to remove caulk containing PCBs at levels below 50 ppm, you may wish to because the caulk may present health risks depending on the location, condition, etc. EPA recommends that owners and managers of buildings where PCBs are found take steps to minimize current potential exposure to building occupants until the caulk and contaminated surrounding materials can safely be removed. These recommendations include:

Based on EPA's Office of Research and Development's laboratory research, encapsulation was found to be most effective for interior surfaces that contain low levels of PCBs (i.e. several hundred parts per million). Depending on the PCB reduction goal, the performance of the encapsulant, and the conditions of the building, the upper limit of the PCB concentration for successful encapsulation may vary. Therefore, post-encapsulation monitoring is an essential part of the encapsulation process. Building owners should consult EPA's research on this issue for more specifics. Encapsulation may be useful for the reduction of emissions from secondary sources such as contaminated building materials under and around PCB-containing caulk or paint that has been removed. Encapsulation was not found to be effective in reducing emissions from sources that have a high PCB content (for example caulk) for more than a short period of time. Because each site will present unique circumstances, please consult your EPA PCB Regional Coordinator regarding the application of encapsulation measures on a case by case basis.

EPA is helping to address the issue of PCBs in caulk

EPA is conducting research on how the public is exposed to PCBs in caulk and on the best approaches for reducing exposure and potential risks associated with PCBs in caulk. Where PCBs have been found in the air, soil or in the caulk and other building materials, EPA is committed to helping schools and communities enact plans to reduce exposure. Please contact your EPA PCB Regional Coordinator at 1-888-835-5372 for help with assessing contamination and exposure and developing cleanup plans.

Ask EPA experts for help addressing PCBs in caulk

For further information on cleanup and removal of PCB caulk, contact EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Hotline at 1-888-835-5372 or the EPA PCB Regional Coordinator for your area.

This fact sheet is intended solely for guidance and should be used as an informal reference. It does not replace or supplant the requirements of the Toxic Substances Control Act or the PCB regulations at 40 CFR part 761, and it is not binding on the Agency or individuals. Please refer to the regulations at 40 CFR part 761 for specific requirements relating to PCBs and PCB-containing materials.

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