The public health threat from PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, has received much attention in the context of contamination from industrial activity in locations including the Housatonic River and New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts, Hudson River in New York, Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and Fox River and Sheboygan Harbor in Wisconsin.
In recent years, evidence has also mounted that many public, residential, and commercial buildings built or renovated between 1950 and 1979 may be impacted by the unauthorized use of PCBs in caulks, paints, grout, mastics, and other building materials. In the U.S., where PCBs have been determined to be a probable human carcinogen, the production of PCBs was banned in 1979, and their use and disposal is restricted, owing to the associated health and environmental risks. Building owners and occupants are, however, rarely aware of the existence of these materials, or their potential dangers.
For that reason, my colleague Bart Ashley and I are pleased to announce that the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has recently published the book “Assessment and Remediation of PCBs in the Built Environment” with guidelines to support understanding and responses to this issue.
The book is an extension of the 2013 white paper that Bart and I helped to develop through our roles on various AIHA committees. The paper advised that more scientific research and data collection was needed related to exposure risks. It also called for exposure assessment profiles to better understand which populations may be at high risk, and possible regulatory changes based on risk assessment analyses to protect public health and the environment.
The new AIHA book builds on those recommendations. Some of its guidance includes:
The AIHA is one of the largest international associations serving Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) professionals practicing industrial hygiene and is a resource for those in large corporations, small businesses and who work independently as consultants. Founded in 1939, AIHA is a nonprofit organization devoted to achieving and maintaining the highest professional standards for its members, and it states its mission as “Creating knowledge to protect worker health.” More than half of the nearly 10,000 members are certified industrial hygienists (CIHs), and many hold other professional designations. AIHA administers comprehensive education programs that keep occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals current in the field of industrial hygiene.
As OEHS professionals work to
deepen their understanding of the impacts and risks of PCBs contained in
building materials, we look forward to “Assessment and Remediation of PCBs in the Built Environment” becoming a trusted reference source for all working
to protect the health of workers and the public.