Just recently the Federal EPA has taken an interest in the amount of PCBs in caulk in some older buildings. Much of what the agency has been sending to the states seems informational in nature, however, it is important that the Demolition Industry is aware of this issue and prepares for it.
In recent years, EPA has learned that caulk containing potentially harmful polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was used in many buildings, including schools, in the 1950s through the 1970s. In general, schools and buildings built after 1978 do not contain PCBs in caulk. On September 25, 2009, EPA announced new guidance for school administrators and building managers with important information about managing PCBs in caulk and tools to help minimize possible exposure.
The caulking that EPA is worried about commonly surrounds windows and doors as well as in some masonry work. It may have been used in the past during any repair work on the structure. You can’t really determine the presence of PCBs in this caulk by appearance, brand or manufacturer.
The current Federal EPA level of regulation on this caulk is for material that contains PCBs at 50 parts per million (ppm) or greater as a PCB bulk product waste. Disposal of this material is regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act, however, some states may have different regulations regarding its disposal and handling within their jurisdiction. It is important that the demolition contractor is clear on the presence of this PCB-containing caulk and his responsibilities under the Federal statute as well as any state regulations.
Through EPA’s Regional PQB Coordinators, the Agency will also assist communities in identifying potential problems and, if necessary, developing plans for PCB testing and removal.
The EPA also announced additional research into this issue. There are several unresolved scientific questions that must be better understood to assess the magnitude of the problem and identify the best long-term solutions.
For example, the link between the concentrations of PCBs in caulk and PCBS in the air or dust is not well understood. The Agency is doing research to determine the sources and levels of PCBs in schools and to evaluate different strategies to reduce exposures. The results of this research will be used to provide further guidance to schools and building owners as they develop and implement long-term solutions.