Soil Contamination from PCB-Containing Buildings

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Soil Contamination from PCB-Containing Buildings

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Title: Soil Contamination from PCB-Containing Buildings
Author: Lefkowitz, Daniel J.; Weymouth, George A.; Herrick, Robert F.

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Citation: Herrick, Robert F., Daniel J. Lefkowitz, and George A. Weymouth. 2007. Soil Contamination from PCB-Containing Buildings. Environmental Health Perspectives 115(2): 173-175.
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Abstract: Background: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in construction materials, such as caulking used around windows and expansion joints, may constitute a source of PCB contamination in the building interiors and in surrounding soil. Several studies of soil contamination have been conducted around buildings where the caulking has been removed by grinding or scraping. The PCBs in soil may have been generated in the process of removing the caulking, but natural weathering and deterioration of the caulking may have also been a source. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to measure PCB levels in soil surrounding buildings where PCB-containing caulk was still in place, and to evaluate the mobility of the PCBs from caulking using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Method 1311). Discussion: We found soil PCB contamination ranging from 3.3 to 34 mg/kg around buildings with undisturbed caulking that contained 10,000–36,200 mg/kg PCBs. The results of the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (leachate concentrations of 76–288 mg PCB/L) suggest that PCBs in caulking can be mobilized, apparently as complexes with dissolved organic matter that also leach off the caulking material. Conclusions and Recommendations: Although these new findings are based on a small sample size, they demonstrate the need for a national survey of PCBs in building materials and in soil surrounding these buildings. Because the buildings constructed during the time the PCB caulking was in use (1960s and 1970s) include schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, the potential for exposure of children is a particular concern. It is necessary to reconsider the practice of disposing of old PCB caulking removed during building renovations in conventional landfills, given the apparent mobility of PCBs from the caulking material. Disposal of some caulking material in nonhazardous landfills might lead to high PCB levels in landfill leachate.
Published Version: doi://10.1289/ehp.9646
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