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PCBs in Caulk in Older Hospitals

On September 25, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a series of steps that building owners and school administrators should take to reduce exposure to PCBs that may be found in caulk in many buildings constructed or renovated between 1950 and 1978.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are man-made chemicals that persist in the environment and were widely used in construction materials and electrical products prior to 1978. PCBs can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system and are potentially cancer-causing if they build up in the body over long periods of time.

Although this is a serious issue, the potential presence of PCBs in buildings should not be a cause for alarm. If buildings were erected or renovated between 1950 and 1978, EPA recommends that owners implement steps to minimize exposure to potentially contaminated caulk in the following ways:

  • Cleaning air ducts
  • Improving ventilation by opening windows and using or installing [exhaust] fans where possible
  • Cleaning frequently to reduce dust and residue inside buildings
  • Using a wet or damp cloth or mop to clean surfaces
  • Do not sweep with dry brooms in areas near potential PCB-containing caulk; minimize the use of dusters
  • Using vacuums with high efficiency particulate air filters
  • Washing hands with soap and water often, particularly before eating and drinking
  • Washing children’s toys often

To help educate building owners and schools about PCB-containing caulk, EPA asks that you link to the PCB-containing caulk web page at http://www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk where more information is available. If you have any questions, you may contact Tom Simons at 202-566-0517, or simons.tom@epa.gov.

©2015 Healthcare Environmental Resource Center
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