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Renovations and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) for a Healthy School Environment

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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. 

Resources

EPA and Federal Partners

  • 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:
    • Fact Sheet for Schools:  PCBs in Caulk School Checklist (PDF) (1pp, 106KB)
  • PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts in School Buildings: A Guide for School Administrators and Maintenance Personnel by 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 by EPA 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.
  • Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments by EPA provides an overview of issues related to PCBs in caulk and fluorescent light ballasts in schools.

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