Are PCBs in Your Kitchen?

April 23, 2018

Probably the last place you would want to find airborne polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs) is in your kitchen, yet that's exactly where scientists detected their presence, according to a new report in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology. They say that the PCBs, which are widely considered carcinogenic, are unwanted byproducts of sealant breakdown in modern kitchen cabinetry.

As a group, PCBs are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known human carcinogens, and their manufacture was banned in the U.S. in 1979. But because of the tendency of these chemicals to stick around in the environment and their inadvertent production as manufacturing byproducts, PCBs can still be found in offices and schools. Keri C. Hornbuckle and colleagues at the University of Iowa College of Engineering wanted to determine how much and what types of PCBs are present in and around residences.

The researchers measured the concentrations of PCBs using polyurethane-equipped passive air samplers (PUF-PAS) for a 6-week interval from August 22, 2017, to October 2, 2017, inside and outside 16 homes in Iowa. They found neurotoxic PCB-47 and PCB-51, as well as PCB-68, at much higher levels than expected. The concentrations seemed to be dependent on the year the house was built, with higher levels in more recent years. After testing the emissions coming from a variety of household items, including the stove, floor and walls, the researchers found the PCBs wafting off the finished kitchen cabinetry. The researchers suspect that the substances come from the decomposition of 2,4-dichlorobenzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in modern cabinet sealants. This finding brings to light a previously unknown source of a toxic chemical in the home.

St Louis Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St Louis, MO on May 8-10 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Hilton Head Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC on May 22-24 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Baton Rouge Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA on June 5-7 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Fifth Annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction

The National Safety Stand-Down was created five years ago as a combined effort by OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training, and other partners. For the past four years, the Stand-Down Campaign has had an impact on fall prevention and on the awareness and education of millions of workers in construction. Now in its fifth year, every participant can build on their strengths and welcome millions more to safety on the job. The National Safety Stand-Down will be held on May 7-9, 2018.

National Occupational Research Agenda for Musculoskeletal Health

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the availability of the draft National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) for Musculoskeletal Health for public comment. The agenda incorporates knowledge about injuries and illnesses, the state of the science, and the likelihood that new information and approaches will make a difference in preventing musculoskeletal disorders. The deadline to submit comments is May 21, 2018.

Tips for Tractor Trailer Safety

The dangers tractor trailer drivers face don’t end once they reach their destination. Whether at the warehouse, dock, or construction site, drivers are exposed to struck-by, crushed-between, and other safety hazards. OSHA is teaming with the trucking industry to raise awareness of these hazards, and help prevent serious and fatal injuries.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 96 fatalities in truck transportation occurred in Midwestern states from 2015 to 2017. Thirteen of those fatalities appeared to be related to coupling (attaching) and uncoupling (detaching) trucks from the rig.

OSHA and the trucking industry developed a new flier that addresses the three most common hazards: parking, backing up, and coupling and uncoupling vehicles:



  • Park on level ground and close to the receiving door or site
  • Set and test brakes
  • Do not attempt to stop a rolling vehicle
  • Place wheel chocks between the tandem wheels of the trailer


Backing Up

  • Get Out And Look (GOAL)
  • Use flashers, horn, and backup alarms
  • Check both mirrors
  • Roll down windows to hear
  • Know the vehicle’s blind spots
  • Use a spotter
  • Back up slowly
  • Stand clear when opening doors for unloading


Coupling and Uncoupling

  • Only trained workers should perform this procedure
  • Ensure stable footing when releasing the fifth wheel or adjusting tandems
  • Wear bright visible clothing
  • Set parking brakes and perform tug test ƒ
  • Keep clear of tires and frames
  • Check for vehicular traffic near you


See OSHA’s Trucking Industry webpage for information on other industry hazards.

$435,679 Proposed Penalties for New Jersey Plastics Manufacturer

After an OSHA investigation, New Jersey plastics manufacturer Douglas Stephen Plastics, Inc. has been cited for exposing employees to safety and health hazards at its Paterson, New Jersey, facility. OSHA proposed penalties of $435,679.

OSHA inspected the plastics manufacturer on Oct. 2, 2017, in response to a complaint alleging unsafe workplace hazards, and imminent danger conditions from blocked emergency exits. A health inspection was also conducted on Oct. 11, 2017, after an inspector’s initial readings indicated employee exposure to excessive noise levels.

OSHA cited the employer for failing to administer a hearing conservation program; exposing employees to amputations, electric shock, and burns; allowing employees to use equipment without proper guarding; failing to control hazardous energy; and failing to train powered industrial truck operators.

Air Quality Improved by Use of High-Efficiency Filtration

A new study focused on households with asthmatic children finds that the use of high-efficiency filtration, either as part of a central air system or standalone air cleaner, significantly improves indoor air quality. The study also found that while participants did not report reduced asthma symptoms, they did have fewer visits to doctor’s offices and hospitals for asthma care.

Study results were recently presented at the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The two-year study, “Benefits of High Efficiency Filtration to Children with Asthma,” was conducted by UC Davis researchers and funded by CARB. CARB funded the study because other research has linked exposure to fine particles with premature death, asthma, heart disease and respiratory problems.

Researchers evaluated the extent to which high-efficiency air filtration in homes reduces indoor exposure to air pollution — and symptoms in asthmatic children. The study involved 191 asthmatic children age 6-12 years old from 172 households in and around Fresno and Riverside.

The outcomes showed:

  • Indoor air quality was significantly improved with the use of high-efficiency filtration, with a 48% reduction in the mean indoor concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 0.2 and 2.5) for homes with high-efficiency filters compared to those with no or low-efficiency filtration controls. Smaller reductions were observed for coarse (PM 10) particles (31%). Air quality improvements in homes were greater with two continuously operating standalone air cleaners than with central-system filtration, in part because central systems did not run continuously. Larger reductions were observed when participants kept their windows closed and ran the air cleaners for the full duration specified in the study protocol.
  • A slight reduction in health care visits for participants, especially for those characterized as severe asthmatics.
  • Participants with air cleaners in their bedrooms reported waking fewer times from asthma related symptoms if they also kept their bedroom doors closed at night.


In California, 13.7% of children under 18 reported that they had never been diagnosed with asthma (lifetime asthma) and 9.4% said they still have asthma (current asthma). Asthma puts a significant strain on health care and personal resources. Based on the outcomes, CARB recommends using high-efficiency air filtration to improve indoor air quality. The agency remains committed to finding ways to improve symptoms for those with asthma.

Kamphuis Pipeline Company Faces $454,750 in Possible Penalties

OSHA has cited excavation contractor Kamphuis Pipeline Company for exposing employees to trench cave-ins and other serious hazards while installing water metering pits and lines. The company faces proposed penalties of $454,750.

OSHA inspected the Logan and Kidder Counties water project site in September and October 2017. Inspectors determined that the company failed to protect employees from struck-by hazards; did not place excavated soil piles far enough away from trench edges; and failed to utilize appropriate protective systems during trenching operations. The company did not identify hazards and take corrective action when warranted.

“Trenching and excavation are among the most hazardous construction operations, and employers have an obligation to follow safety requirements designed to protect their workers,” said Eric Brooks, OSHA Bismarck Area Office Director. “This employer’s failure to install protective systems put workers at risk of serious injuries from a trench collapse.”

Trenching Violations for Nebraska Contractor

OSHA has cited Nebraska contractor Premier Underground LLC for failing to protect its workers from excavation collapse hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $46,930.

OSHA inspectors observed employees installing water and sewer lines in two unprotected trenches on the same jobsite. OSHA cited the company for one willful and six serious violations for exposing workers to crush hazards, and for failing to: train workers on trenching hazards; provide a safe means of egress from the trench; conduct daily site inspections; and place soil piles a safe distance from the open excavation.

“Trenching and excavation continue to be among the most hazardous jobs in construction,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA Omaha Area Office Director. “When employees are allowed to work in unprotected trenches, they are exposed to a cave-in risk.”

OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation Safety booklet describes safe work practices that can protect workers from trench collapse and other hazards.

Advice for Seasonal Flooding 

With localized flooding already underway this spring in Montana, the Departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources & Conservation and Public Health & Human Services offered several tips for protecting human health and the environment in a flood event.

  • Protect your water quality. If flood water overtops a water well, spring, or cistern, it can contaminate those drinking water sources. It is up to the owner to make sure the water is safe. Bacteria, viruses, or other pathogenic organisms are often present in surface water and pose the greatest threat if consumed. After flooding, you should have the well disinfected and tested to make sure it’s safe.
  • Don’t use water from a flooded well or cistern for drinking, cooking, bathing or other household uses until you’ve talked with proper health authorities. Be prepared if your well or cistern should become contaminated. Prior to a flood, store plenty of bottled water or fill a bathtub or a cistern out of the possible flood area with safe drinking water for a family or business. If flooded, your well or cistern will need proper disinfection and flushing prior to use.
  • Manage your septic system. If your home or area around your home has been flooded, your septic tank may fill with water and could cause sewage to back up. The safe disposal of wastewater is essential to protect human health. Ensure children and pets are kept away from sewage or wastewater affected areas.
  • If you suspect your wastewater system has been physically damaged by flooding, contact your county health department and a licensed septic system installer or a licensed plumber to have it assessed. Do not use or flush your toilet, take a shower, use sinks, wash clothing or put any water down any drain until you know that the septic tank and associated sewer pipes are intact; otherwise, wastewater could flow back up into the house through the toilet, shower, bathroom, kitchen and laundry drains.


  • Secure your storage tanks. Anchor above-ground fuel, propane, or other types of storage tanks to the ground or a solid foundation. If there is time before flooding, move chemicals or hazardous materials above flood level to lessen the chance of spill or contamination. Turn off power to underground fuel storage tank systems and take a product inventory and water level readings to help account for possible product loss. Secure all openings and make sure caps and other components are in good condition.
  • Protect your health.  If clean potable water isn’t available, water used for drinking, cooking, or washing should be treated in one of two ways: 1) boil it for five minutes and then store in a clean container, or 2) mix five drops of household chlorine bleach into every quart and let stand at least five minutes (preferably 30 minutes to an hour) before using. If the water is cloudy with suspended sediment, use a bit more chlorine bleach and mix well to better reach the pathogens hiding on or within the particles. Over-the-counter water filtration devices are available and useful to treat water from a source that you suspect may have been affected by flooding.
  • Discard food that has been exposed to floodwaters. Sealed metal cans and sealed packages with intact protective outer coverings may be salvaged, but must be carefully cleaned and disinfected before opening. Discard refrigerated and frozen food if the power has been out and the food has been warmed to above 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Launder flooded clothing and bedding using a disinfectant such as bleach and a strong detergent. You should discard mattresses and stuffed toys that have been soaked, as these are extremely difficult to get clean enough to safely keep and use. Steam-clean or replace all carpeting and rugs that have been soaked. Wear protective clothing such as rubber boots and gloves while cleaning up debris and scrubbing flood damaged interiors and furniture.
  • Purchase flood insurance: Flood insurance is important financial protection for homeowners, business owners, or renters because it allows them to recover from a flood event faster and more fully. Flood insurance can assist with damage caused by surface waters from any source, as long as the damage affects at least two properties or at least two acres of land. It may also be used to help cover the cost of some preventive measures taken before a flood. Talk to your insurance agent about purchasing flood insurance. Flood damage is not covered under standard homeowners or renter’s insurance.


Wilbert Inc. Cited for Safety Violations

OSHA cited Bellevue-based plastics company Wilbert Inc. for multiple safety violations after an inspection found employees exposed to fall, machine, and electrical hazards. OSHA proposed penalties of $261,454.

OSHA investigators determined that Wilbert Inc., which operates as Wilbert Plastic Services, exposed its employees to crush injuries, burns, and fall hazards while they conducted maintenance on plastic injection molding presses. Inspectors cited the employer for failing to ensure employees had adequate personal protective equipment and clothing, and for permitting the use of damaged electrical devices.

“Using proper safety controls, and removing damaged devices from service can protect employees from exposure to known hazards in the workplace,” said Kim Nelson, OSHA Toledo Area Office Director.

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