Contractors Workplace exposures Industrial hygiene

White paper warns of chemical exposure from building materials

Falls Church, VA – Workers may be exposed to a group of synthetic chemicals used in building materials without realizing it, according to a new white paper from the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

The paper focuses on polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which were used in building materials such as caulking, grout and paint from 1950 to 1978. PCBs have been linked to health risks, including damage to the endocrine, reproductive and immune system – as well as cancer. Exposure can occur through inhalation or touching.

The Environmental Protection Agency has regulated PCBs in liquid form, but AIHA said that workers being exposed to unsafe levels of PCBs emanating from building materials is a growing concern.

Removing PCB sources is the best way to eliminate the hazard, according to AIHA. Noting that glaze or paint made with PCBs can produce PCB dust, AIHA recommends controlling dust by cleaning surfaces with a damp cloth or mop, or using vacuums with HEPA air filters.