PCB contamination from polysulphide sealants in residential areas - Exposure and risk assessment

Eero Priha*, Sannamari Hellman, Jaana Sorvari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


From the late 1950s to the early 1970s elastic polysulphide sealants were used in outdoor seams between concrete blocks in prefabricated buildings. The sealants contained 5-30% polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Due to the weathering of sealants in general and the replacement of seams with new PCB-free materials in the 1990s, PCBs have drifted to the soil adjacent to buildings. The objectives of this study were to survey PCB contamination in the surroundings of former PCB-containing buildings and to evaluate the risks to human health. Samples from soil, and also from blood serum of residents, were collected to obtain data for exposure assessment. The health risk assessment was based on deterministic and probabilistic calculations for cancer and non-cancer risks. Soil ingestion and dermal contact were considered the main routes of exposure and children the most important exposed group. The mean total PCB concentration was 6.83 mg/kg within 2 m of the buildings and 0.52 mg/kg within 3-10 m from of the buildings. The deterministic risk assessment with conservative parameters resulted in lifetime cancer risk estimates on the order of 10 -6-10-7. The lifetime average daily dose (LADD) for PCBs was less than 10% of the reference dose (RfD) 0.02 μg/kg day, which is based on immunosupression in monkeys. The LADD corresponding to the total site attributable exposure was less than 10% of the estimated average dietary PCB intake in Finland. Children can, however, in worst cases be exposed to daily doses near the level of the RfD. Low cost measures are recommended to reduce possible exposure of children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-543
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Aroclor
  • Contaminated soil
  • Exposure
  • PCB
  • Risk assessment
  • Sealant

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