10-25 Polluted caulk in windows and walls impact occupants :: The Construction Management Pro

10-25 Polluted caulk in windows and walls impact occupants

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are being found at high levels in buildings  built or remodeled between 1950 and 1978;  in caulk  used in general construction and window frames, as well as gasket materials in some hvac equipment.  PCB levels in excess of 50 ppm are considered by EPA as being unacceptable.

Because PCBs can migrate from the caulk into air, dust, surrounding building materials, and soil, EPA is concerned about potential PCB exposure to building occupants.  They issued updated alerts in August, 2010 to confirm their continuing concern.

Building designers and maintenance management need to review the alerts to avoid contamination of occupants.

Health impacts of PCB exposure

PCBs are man-made toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in animals and humans. PCBs were manufactured in the United States between 1950 and 1978, before their manufacture was banned by Congress due to concerns about their potential for adverse effects on human health and the environment. Exposure to PCBs can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. In humans, PCBs are potentially cancer-causing.

Protect building occupants

The preventive steps described below can be provided by building management to help reduce exposure to PCBs in caulk until it can be removed.

Improve ventilation and add exhaust fans.

Clean air ducts.

Clean frequently to reduce dust and residue inside buildings.

Use a wet or damp cloth or mop to clean surfaces.

Use vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Do not sweep with dry brooms and minimize the use of dusters.

Wash hands with soap and water after cleaning and before eating or drinking, and wash children’s toys often.

Test for PCBs in buildings built between 1950 and 1978

If building management and owners are concerned about exposure to PCBs and wish to supplement the noted steps, EPA recommends testing to determine if PCB levels in the air exceed EPA’s suggested public health levels. If testing reveals PCB levels above these levels, building managers should be especially vigilant in implementing and monitoring practices to minimize exposures.

Caulk that is peeling or deteriorating may be tested to determine its PCB content. If PCBs are found in the air, EPA will assist in developing a plan to reduce exposure and manage the caulk. Your EPA regional PCB coordinator can direct you to a PCB testing lab; see the back cover for more information.

Caulk that is peeling, brittle, cracking, or deteriorating visibly in some way may have the highest potential for creating dust. In addition to inhalation from PCBs in the air or dust, exposure may occur when a person comes in contact with the caulk and any surrounding porous materials into which the PCBs may have been released (e.g., brick, concrete, wood).

Exposure may also occur through contact with PCB-contaminated soil adjacent to buildings. Soil may become contaminated with PCBs when caulk weathers.

Protections during removals, renovations

Building owners and managers need to follow PCB-safe renovation practices to minimize potential exposures resulting from renovations to workers or occupants.

It is important that construction management arrange removal in a way that minimizes workers’ exposure to the PCBs (e.g., use protective clothing such as facemasks, gloves, etc.) and prevents the release of PCBs into the environment. These additional work practices  can help reduce exposure to PCBs in caulk:

Wear appropriate protective clothing when conducting cleanup activities.

Dispose of all cleanup materials (mops, rags, filters, water, etc.) in accordance with all federal, state, and county regulations.

For caulk used on windows, walls, columns, and other vertical structures that people may come into contact with, use heavy-duty plastic and tape to contain the area so that caulk or dust and debris from the surrounding masonry do not escape. The plastic should cover the caulk and surrounding areas of masonry.

Keep unprotected persons out of areas where cracked or peeling caulk is evident such as in playgrounds and near steps.

Observations

The environmental consulting group Environmental Health and Engineering has participated in a number of studies and abatement evaluations since this issue became an EPA Priority.  They recommend:

PCB-containing building materials represent a newly discovered and significant liability for building owners and contractors. The regulation-driven remediation efforts can dramatically impact the cost of renovation or demolition, easily costing millions of dollars for a single project and have major impacts on the scheduling of projects.

Building owners must educate themselves on both the legal implications and on the best ways to minimize their risk and the overall costs to remediate.

When remediation of PCB–contaminated materials is warranted, EH&E recommends a knowledgeable review of the remediation approach prior to implementation. Regulatory requirements call for removal of all PCB–containing materials and the removal or encapsulation of PCB-contaminated materials. Building masonry that comes in contact with caulking will often become contaminated to various degrees based on the porosity of the material. Carefully analyzing the extent of the contamination can often make a significant difference in removal or encapsulation effort and cost. Wholesale removal of sections of a façade may be avoided by accurately determining the extent of PCB penetration, which can significantly reduce the cost of remediation. Furthermore, alternative project designs, that still comply with regulatory guidance, may then be negotiated with major savings of time and project costs.

An  EH&E  white paper is available through this link:

wp.me/PZXEI-vU

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PCB-containing building materials represent a newly discovered and significant liability for building owners and contractors. The regulation-driven remediation efforts can dramatically impact the cost of renovation or demolition, easily costing millions of dollars for a single project and have major impacts on the scheduling of projects.An  EH&E  white paper is available through this link:

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Comments

7 Responses to “10-25 Polluted caulk in windows and walls impact occupants”

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