PCBs in Schools

PCBs are highly persistent in the environment. As such, they are still present in soils and sediments in some locations today and may be found at low levels in ambient air and water.Additional exposure to PCBs may occur for people who spend time in buildings where PCB-containing materials and equipment are present.

Caulk containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was used in some buildings, including schools, in the 1950s through the 1970s. Other potential sources of PCBs, such as fluorescent light ballast capacitors, were also used in school buildings during this era. PCBs were used in other types of capacitors, transformers, plasticizers, coatings, inks, and adhesives.

A 2012 EPA funded study (Thomas, Xue et al., US EPA 2012) suggested that PCB levels could be substantial if PCB oil residues were present in light fixtures that had been previously contaminated by leaking or failed ballast capacitors. The same study concluded that PCBs-containing caulk were a primary source of PCBs in and around school buildings. And that PCBs in exterior caulk were likely to enter the soil near school buildings with the highest soil PCB levels found in closest proximity to the building.

Teklab can test soil samples for the presence of PCBs or wipes (a gauze pad or glass wool saturated in Hexane that is wiped over a surface) to determine if a surface is contaminated with PCBs. Visit our PCB page for more details or call us at 618 344 1004 and talk to one of our project managers. 


For full details on the EPA/NERL PCB in Schools study; click the link to download PCBs in School Buildings: Sources, Environmental Levels and Exposures (2012).

Recent news article about PCB levels in schools Toxic PCBs linger in schools; EPA, lawmakers fail to act (Tammy Webber, Martha Irvine, Associated Press, 2019)

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