An unrecognized source of PCB contamination in schools and other buildings

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jul;112(10):1051-3. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6912.


An investigation of 24 buildings in the Greater Boston Area revealed that one-third (8 of 24) contained caulking materials with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) content exceeding 50 ppm by weight, which is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) specified limit above which this material is considered to be PCB bulk product waste. These buildings included schools and other public buildings. In a university building where similar levels of PCB were found in caulking material, PCB levels in indoor air ranged from 111 to 393 ng/m3; and in dust taken from the building ventilation system, < 1 ppm to 81 ppm. In this building, the U.S. EPA mandated requirements for the removal and disposal of the PCB bulk product waste as well as for confirmatory sampling to ensure that the interior and exterior of the building were decontaminated. Although U.S. EPA regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act stipulate procedures by which PCB-contaminated materials must be handled and disposed, the regulations apparently do not require that materials such as caulking be tested to determine its PCB content. This limited investigation strongly suggests that were this testing done, many buildings would be found to contain high levels of PCBs in the building materials and potentially in the building environment. The presence of PCBs in schools is of particular concern given evidence suggesting that PCBs are developmental toxins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Construction Materials*
  • Environment
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Schools
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Universities


  • Carcinogens
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls