Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of man-made chemicals that were use in many industrial and commercial applications due to their desirable characteristics. PCBs were manufactured in the United States up until the late 1970’s when Federal regulations ended production as a result of environmental and occupational concerns.
PCBs are known as an environmental “Persistent Organic Pollutant” (POP). They resist degradation, accumulate in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, are subjected to long-range transport, are toxic and have a tendency to bioaccumulate which is one of the environmental concerns.
PCBs in Electrical Transformers
Throughout the country, large efforts have been made over the last several decades to phase out PCBs from “closed systems” where the PCBs are encased within an electrical unit such as transformers and large capacitors. In the early 1990’s, the University assessed transformers systems across the campus which resulted in the replacement of identified PCB transformers to non-PCB transformers.
PCBs in Building Materials
Decades have passed since the cessation of PCB production in the US, but PCB sources still remain and may be found in “open systems/sources”. One such source, now recognized widely by the US EPA, is building caulk. Although not found in all building caulks of the era, when identified above regulatory concentrations, PCBs must be removed and disposed of appropriately.
At the University, PCBs are managed in a fashion consistent with EPA, NYSDEC and OSHA regulations. As PCBs are identified, the Physical Plant Environmental Shop is responsible for PCB abatement oversight. All contractors performing PCB related activities on campus must receive prior approval from the University and must perform PCB related activities in accordance with all applicable regulations and University best management practices.
Environmental Health and Safety Services (EHSS) assists the Physical Plant Environmental Shop in PCB related abatement projects. EHSS provides pre and post abatement assessment direction, compliance guidance, PCB awareness and PCB management training, PCB data management, and responds to PCB related inquiries, incidents and exposure concerns.
Any known or suspected disturbance of PCB containing building materials must be reported to the Physical Plant Environmental Shop and EHSS immediately to initiate appropriate response and clean-up.