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Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were used in building materials between 1950 and 1979. Materials containing PCBs may be present in campus buildings constructed during this time. PCBs in building materials may become a hazard if they become airborne. PCBs can become airborne when materials are disturbed or damaged, which occurs during removal of these materials. Prior to renovation or demolition of buildings constructed between 1950 and 1979, the University follows Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations to determine the presence of PCBs in building materials. Bulk samples of building materials are collected and analyzed for PCBs at an accredited laboratory. Any removed materials containing PCBs greater than or equal to 50 parts per million (ppm) are disposed of properly according to EPA regulations. Safe work practices are implemented during removal to minimize dust and contain contaminated waste.

Potential building materials that may contain PCBs include:

  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Paints, varnishes, and lacquers
  • Insulation materials
  • Window and door caulking
  • Joint compounds
  • Coal-tar enamel coatings (e.g., pipe coating)
  • Oil-filled transformers

The EPA recommends that schools and other buildings follow best management practices to minimize potential building occupant exposure to PCBs including removing all PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts. In 2011, the University completed lighting upgrades projects in selected campus buildings which resulted in the removal of PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts. Lighting upgrades have also been completed as part of various campus building renovations. Isolated PCB-containing ballasts may be found on campus. Report any suspected PCB-containing ballasts, particularly leaking ballasts, to your building maintenance representative.

If you have further questions, please contact Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.