October 2, 2009Client Alert

Environmental Protection Agency Issues Guidance and Plans Additional Research on Risks Posed by PCB-Containing Caulk

Polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”) are man-made chemicals that were widely used in construction materials and electrical products through the late 1970s. Although Congress banned the manufacture and most uses of PCBs in 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has found evidence that buildings constructed or renovated between 1950 and 1978 may have PCBs at high levels in caulk around windows and door frames, between masonry columns and in other building materials.

On September 25, 2009, EPA issued general guidance to communities, as well as specific guidance to help school administrators and teachers reduce the risk of PCB exposure to children, and to assist contractors renovating buildings with suspect caulk. EPA’s guidance helps identify the extent of potential risks and determine if mitigation steps are needed. EPA will work directly with building owners and administrators facing serious problems to help develop a practical approach to reduce exposures and prioritize caulk removal. Although EPA has generated specific guidance for school administrators and teachers, all buildings constructed during this time period may have PCB-containing caulk.

EPA has also identified several unresolved scientific issues that must be better understood to determine the magnitude of the issue and to develop the best long-term solutions. As a result, EPA will conduct new research to better understand the risks posed by PCB-containing caulk. EPA plans to use these research findings to make additional recommendations to further minimize exposure and generate an action plan for caulk removal.

Although the materials EPA released identify the issue of PCB containing caulk as a concern, the agency indicates that not enough information exists concerning the scope or severity of the issue to provide property owners and school administrators with very concrete advice about next steps. Property owners and school administrators are left to wonder, "just how big of a concern is this and just what must my reasonable response be." Additionally, like lead paint, asbestos, mold, indoor air quality, and other types of building hazards, real estate professionals and lawyers will have another risk to address in building transactions.

For more information, contact EPA’s toll free hotline at 1.888.835.5372, or the EPA web site. You may also contact one of the authors of this alert or your Michael Best attorney.

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