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New Paper Examines PCBs in the Built Environment

Jack Springston, CIH, CSP | October 22, 2013

Ongoing research, legislation and regulation continue to raise the visibility of the potential risks and hazards of PCBs in building materials.

As Chairman of the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) Committee on Indoor Environmental Quality, I was proud to be involved in the development of a newly released white paper on this topic.

“PCBs in the Built Environment” provides a comprehensive overview of the issue, evaluates the exposure potential for building occupants, and identifies gaps in the current knowledge base that would help occupational and environmental health professionals better understand the associated public health risks.

PCBs are a group of manmade chemicals that were used to make various building materials and products, such as caulking, grout and light ballasts, from the 1950s to 1970s. In the U.S., the production of PCBs was banned in 1979, and their use and disposal is restricted, due to the associated health and environmental risks. Building owners and occupants are rarely aware of the existence of these materials, or the potential dangers.

The new AIHA white paper contributes to the discourse on the issue by reviewing the following areas:

  • Health effects;
  • Exposure;
  • Regulations;
  • Risk assessment;
  • Inspection and testing;
  • Air monitoring; and,
  • Remediation and disposal.

While I served as the paper’s editor, my TRC colleague Bart Ashley, CIH, CSP chaired the paper’s full development. It was a yearlong process involving extensive research, the participation and collaboration of many industry experts representing a number of AIHA Committees—Construction, Environmental Issues, Exposure Assessment Strategies, Indoor Environmental Quality and Risk Assessment – and an outside peer review process. Bart and I extend our sincere thanks to everyone involved.

Together, the paper’s authors concluded that action in the following areas will help develop sound public policy related to PCBs:

  • Additional scientific research and data collection is needed related to exposure risks;
  • Development of exposure assessment profiles to better understand which populations may be at high risk; and,
  • Possible regulatory changes based on risk assessment analyses to protect public health and the environment.

For more information, please download “PCBs in the Built Environment.”

I invite you to ask any questions, or to share your experiences related to PCB management and indoor air quality, in the comments section below.

Jack Springston, CIH, CSP

Jack Springston has over 26 years experience in industrial hygiene and occupational health. He has been a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) since 1993, and is one of only approximately 70 active CIHs who also hold a sub-specialty certificate in Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). In addition, he has been a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) since 1996.

Jack received a BS Degree in Environmental Science and Biology from Long Island University/ Southampton College and a MS Degree in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences from City University of New York/Hunter College. He is the current Chair of the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) Indoor Environmental Quality committee and is a past-Chair of their Biosafety and Environmental Microbiology committee. He is the 2001 recipient of AIHA’s Kusnetz Award, given annually to an industrial hygienist who, by exhibiting high ethical standards and technical abilities, has provided for the highest standards of health and safety protection for employees for whom he or she is responsible and who shows promise of leadership in the industrial hygiene profession, and in 2012 he was made a distinguished Fellow of AIHA.

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