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Detection of PCBs in buildings at AU

According to a report from the Danish Building and Property Agency, there are elevated levels of PCBs in ten buildings at ST and Aarhus BSS. The sources of the PCB contamination have been identified and are being removed.

In the autumn, the Danish Building and Property Agency conducted a comprehensive examination of levels of PCBs, which are hazardous chemicals,  in AU’s buildings. Last week, the final report was published. There are moderately increased levels of PCBs in nine buildings, and there is a room with a critical level of PCBs in one room in one building. The affected buildings are:

  • Building 1520 and 1522, Ny Munkegade 120 (ST)
  • Building 1540, Ny Munkegade 114 (ST)
  • Buildings 2620 and 2627, Fuglesangs Allé 4 (Aarhus BSS) (two storage rooms in the basement)
  • Buildings 1323, 1325, 1327, 1328 and 1343, Bartholins Allé (Aarhus BSS)

The one room where critical levels of PCBs were measured is a room in the basement in building 1522 which has been empty for some time. The Danish Building and Property Agency informed the university of the detected of critical levels of PCBs in this room in September so that AU could begin the work of removing the source and cleaning the room immediately. With the exception of this room, PCB levels in all of the rooms in which elevated levels were detected lie within the category for which the Danish Health and Medicines Authority recommends that renovations be commenced within one to two years.

Sources of PCBs are being removed

Because PCBs are chemicals that are hazardous to human health, they must be removed from the ten buildings where levels exceed the Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s permissible exposure limit of 300 ng pcb/m3 of air for daily exposure of eight hours or more.  The work of identifying and removing potential sources of PCB contamination has begun, and both ST and Aarhus BSS anticipate that it will be complete in the course of 2015.

Where are the PCBs coming from?

In the affected classrooms at Aarhus BSS, the PCB contamination comes from light fixtures with defected condensers. All light fixtures of the same type will be replaced, including those that are not defective. This will probably be done over the course of the summer, so it will not inconvenience students. Afterwards, the rooms will be thoroughly cleaned, and air purifiers will be installed.

At ST, the main sources of PCBs are defective light fixtures, external sealants around windows, and some glues used to install linoleum flooring. No PCBs have been detected in classrooms at ST.

Facts about PCBs

‘PCBs’ is an abbreviation for polychlorinated biphenyls, which are hazardous synthetic chemical compounds. In Denmark, PCBs were used in the production of a variety of building materials such as joint sealant, paint and adhesive in double-glazed windows and flooring in the period from 1950 to 1977. Humans can absorb PCBs by touch, inhalation or through food; the latter is typically the primary source. PCBs are not suspected of causing acute illness, but prolonged exposure over a number of years can lead to a variety of adverse health effects. Pregnant women should be particularly careful to avoid PCBs, as they can be absorbed by the fetus. Read more about PCBs (in Danish)

Further information:

Link to Q&A on PCB