Superfund Research Program
Sources of Airborne PCB Congeners
Project Summary (2020-2025)
This project addresses SRP mandates for improved methods for detecting and assessing the hazards of Superfund chemicals. The team will identify and characterize sources of airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within schools and homes, and near superfund sites with PCB-contaminated sediments. Sources of airborne PCBs may include building materials contaminated with legacy Aroclor PCBs, as well as consumer products that are inadvertently contaminated with PCBs through the manufacturing process. Their central hypothesis is that emissions of airborne PCBs are a function of the properties of the PCB congeners, environmental variables, and exposed surfaces in which the PCBs reside. The team will examine all PCB congeners, and both Aroclor and non-Aroclor sources of airborne PCBs. They will evaluate emissions from materials and products found in schools and neighborhoods in their partner communities using methods that are accurate, precise, and reproducible. Data produced by this project will enable cost-effective decisions for their removal. The team will address the project’s central hypothesis by pursuing the following Specific Aims: Aim 1: They will develop novel passive sampling materials. They will design and manufacture tailored electrospun nanofiber mat (ENM) as an efficient and adaptable material for passive air sampling. They will design, calibrate, and deploy samplers equipped with this novel material to detect and measure PCB congeners in the environment. Aim 2: The team will identify specific sources of airborne PCBs in schools and homes. ISRP research has already shown that building materials contaminated with Aroclors, and consumer products contaminated with non-Aroclor congeners, can contribute to high levels of PCBs in indoor air. Project researchers will measure airborne PCBs in schools and homes of Columbus Junction and West Liberty, Iowa; generate an inventory of potential sources in the school rooms; and measure emissions from those materials. They will also develop new laboratory methods to measure emissions and will apply computational fluid dynamics modeling of school rooms to determine the role of each material or consumer product as a source of airborne PCBs. Aim 3: The team will characterize emissions from contaminated waters nation-wide. They hypothesize that contaminated waters are a major outdoor source of airborne PCB exposure nation-wide. They will use existing public data to predict emissions, dispersion, and annual median air concentrations in communities surrounding these waters. They will test their prediction through local measurements of airborne PCBs and communicate their findings to local communities and environmental protection officials, including the EPA. The team’s studies require close collaboration with the ISRP Analytical Core, Community Engagement Core, and Data Management and Analysis Core. Through these collaborations, this project will provide strategies to prioritize technically and economically practical remediation options that focus on reduction of exposure to PCBs.