Determinations of PCB within a project to develop cleanup methods for PCB-containing elastic sealant used in outdoor joints between concrete blocks in buildings

J Environ Monit. 1999 Aug;1(4):383-7. doi: 10.1039/a902528f.


Determinations of PCB were carried out as part of a project aimed at developing cleanup methods for PCB-containing elastic sealant used in outdoor joints between concrete blocks. The goals of the project were to develop methods, which minimise the spread of PCB to the outdoor environment and to indoor air, and which keep the PCB levels as low as reasonably possible in the workplace environment whilst removing the elastic sealant. The following PCB determinations were carried out: (1) concentration in the elastic sealant; (2) concentration in the concrete close to the sealant; (3) concentration in soil; (4) concentration in the indoor air; and (5) concentration in the air in the workplace environment. The cleanup process consisted of a number of different steps: (1) cutting the elastic sealant with an oscillating knife; (2) grinding the concrete with a mechanical machine; (3) sawing the concrete with a mechanical saw and (4) cutting the concrete with a mechanical chisel. In all these different steps a high capacity vacuum cleaner connected to the machines was used. The elastic sealant contained 4.7 to 8.1% total PCB of a technical product with a composition most similar to Clophene A40. The concrete close to the sealant (first 2 mm) contained 0.12 and 1.7% total PCB at two different places. The pattern of the PCB in the concrete resembled that of the sealant. PCB concentrations in the soil from the ground close to the building were 0.1 and 0.3 ppm at two different places before the remedial action. The source of the PCB in the soil is most likely the sealant as the PCB pattern is similar for the two materials. The PCB levels in the workplace air at the beginning of the project, when the techniques were not fully developed, were generally above the occupational exposure limit of 10 micrograms m-3 (up to 120 micrograms m-3). Later when the techniques were optimised to better take care of dust and gases produced during the cutting and grinding etc., the levels were below or close to 10 micrograms m-3. The pattern of the PCB in the workplace air was different from that of the sealant and contained higher levels of lighter components. The PCB concentrations in the indoor air were measured before and during the remedial process. The levels were around 600 ng m-3 and there was no significant increase during the removal of the sealant. The PCB level after the remedial action will be measured later. The pattern of the PCB in the indoor air was different from that of the sealant as well as from that of the workplace air. Higher levels of the lighter PCB were present indoors compared to the composition in both workplace air and in sealant. Extracts of PCB were analysed by GC-MS with a SIM method (selected ion monitoring). Standard procedures were used for extraction of solid materials. For the air samples an OVS tube was used with XAD-2 as adsorbent. The filter and adsorbent were extracted with toluene. This work shows that it is important to perform remedial action of PCB-containing elastic sealant as: (1) there is a spread of PCB to the indoor air giving high enough concentrations to make this the main PCB load on humans living in the apartments studied in this project; (2) large amounts are spread to the soil from these sealants; and (3) many of the PCB-containing elastic sealants used need to be changed from a functional perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Manufactured Materials
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Workplace


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls