Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | February 19, 2010

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders says EPA reaches agreement with NYC school system on handling PCBs in caulk used between 1950 and 1978. Agreement ignores PCBs in caulk used nationwide during same time period.

US EPA reached an agreement with the City of New York to address the risks posed by PCBs in caulk used in older school buildings. The agreement is intended to result in a city-wide approach to assessing and reducing potential exposures to PCBs in caulk in schools.

The agreement requires the city to conduct a study in five schools to determine the most effective strategies for assessing and reducing potential exposures to PCBs in caulk. The city will then produce a proposed plan for any cleanups needed in the five schools and use this information to develop a recommended city-wide approach. EPA is also requiring the city to develop and submit for approval best management practices for reducing exposure to PCBs in caulk in school buildings. These may include cleaning the schools, improving ventilation, and addressing deteriorating caulk.

Although Congress banned the manufacture and most uses of PCBs in 1976 and they were phased out in 1978, there is evidence that many buildings across the country constructed or renovated from 1950 to 1978 may have PCBs at high levels in the caulk around windows and door frames, between masonry columns and in other masonry building materials. Exposure to these PCBs may occur as a result of their release from the caulk into the air, dust, surrounding surfaces and soil, and through direct contact.

In September 2009, EPA provided new guidance to communities and announced additional research to address PCBs that may be found in the caulk in many older buildings, including schools.  

The legally binding agreement announced settles potential violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act by the city for having caulk that contains PCBs above allowable levels in some schools.

As part of the study of the five yet to be determined schools, the city will sample extensively in them, and will ensure that any PCB waste is properly removed.

Once the study is concluded the city will work with EPA to develop and implement a plan to identify, prioritize, and address the presence of PCBs within the New York City school system.

In addition, the agreement calls for the development of a citizens’ participation plan to ensure that school administrators, parents, teachers, students, and members of the public are kept fully informed throughout the process.
The agreement and more information can be found at To learn more about PCBs in caulk go to

Anyone seeking technical guidance should contact the EPA at: 1-888-835-5372.


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