Healthy Indoors Magazine

HI February 2020

Healthy Indoors Magazine

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22 | February 2020 By Robert J. DeMalo, M.Sc., EMSL Analytical, Inc. Background M ost people are aware that exposure to as- bestos or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can be hazardous, but far fewer know that some types of caulking used in the past con- tain both asbestos and PCBs. In fact, there are reports that indicate some caulking compounds used to build and renovate buildings up until 1979 had considerable concentrations of each of these materials, both designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Exposure to both asbes- tos and PCBs can lead to adverse health effects. Asbestos is designated as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and exposure is known to cause Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma and Asbesto- sis. Exposure to PCBs and dioxin-like PCBs can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, en- docrine system and is also designated as a Group 1 human carcinogen by IARC. Caulking and caulk products are elastic sealant materi- als that are used to fill cracks and joint gaps and are used to seal windows against drafts. Caulking and caulk prod- ucts were commonly used both indoors and outdoors and were applied in both residential and commercial settings to seal windows, door frames, boilers, pipe joints, masonry columns, building joints and exteriors. Caulk products were designed to be weather proof, pliable, resistant to heat and water and to be durable, which is why both asbestos and PCBs were used in its formulation due to their respective beneficial properties. Asbestos was added to caulking and caulk products from roughly 1950 to 1979 and the US EPA estimates that caulk used in this time period can contain up to 25% asbestos. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are regulated by the Caulking: Does It Have Asbestos or PCBs… Or Both?

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