PCBs in building materials

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been found in certain building materials throughout Washington. While the manufacture of PCBs was banned in 1979, they remain in buildings built or renovated before or around this time.

PCB-containing building materials can:

  • Pose health risks.
  • Contaminate stormwater, soils, sediments, and indoor air.

Property owners, developers, contractors, local governments, and other businesses can increase their knowledge about the dangers of PCBs in building materials and how to reduce the impacts from these materials on people and the environment.

Why were PCBs used in building materials?

PCBs, also known by their trade name Aroclor, were intentionally added to building materials to improve flexibility, adhesion, and durability.

What common building materials might contain PCBs?

Buildings and structures built or renovated between 1929 and 1979 may contain PCBs, particularly:

  • Door and window caulking.
  • Paint.
  • Galbestos roofing and siding.
  • Fluorescent light ballasts.
  • Various forms of joint material.

How do PCBs in building materials affect people and the environment?

  • Precipitation and pressure washing can move PCBs from building materials, surface soils, and air into stormwater.
  • Construction debris that is disturbed may release PCBs.
  • PCBs in air can circulate, contaminate other materials, and affect indoor air quality.
  • PCBs in stormwater can contaminate surface water, sediment, and aquatic life. 

What should you do if you think a building contains PCBs?

Before starting demolition or renovation on buildings at risk of containing PCBs, property owners, and operators should:

How are PCBs in building materials regulated in Washington?

PCBs in building materials are primarily regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). However, any contamination to the surrounding environment from PCBs in building materials is regulated under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), which directs investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites.

What other guidance is available?

We are drafting guidance that we plan to publish by December 2022 to help identify and manage sources of PCBs in building materials. These materials will help you:

  • Identify and characterize PCBs in building materials.
  • Address PCB sources safely when demolishing and renovating.
  • Understand the potential costs associated with these activities.
  • Understand Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and Washington State regulatory requirements.

In the meantime, consult the EPA's PCBs in Building Materials fact sheet to ensure worker safety and stormwater protection measures are prioritized.

Frequently asked questions