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 take steps 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 building materials might contain PCBs?

Buildings and structures built or renovated between 1950 and 1979 may contain PCBs, particularly in:

  • Door and window caulk, grout, expansion joints, and other joint materials
  • Paints, sealants, coatings, varnishes, and lacquers
  • PCB and asbestos-coated metal sheets, asphaltic roofing, and tar paper materials
  • Fluorescent light ballasts

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 consult our guides:

In October 2022, we published these guides to help business owners and consultants:

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

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.

How do you report elevated levels of PCBs in buildings?

Report elevated levels of PCBs (50 parts per million) on our Statewide Environmental Incidence Report Form.

Frequently asked questions