Building materials that included asbestos, lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are generally believed to have been phased out and banned and are often not considered when analyzing potential occupational exposures. Some of these materials have not actually been banned and even those that have been may still be present in existing building materials and equipment. Occupational exposures related to the presence of these materials and contact with them during repair, renovation, and routine operational activities is often poorly characterized and misunderstood. Further, governmental agencies involved in regulating these materials may apply differing rules and regulations that vary based on the material, its condition, or specific activity being performed.
Between 2009 and 2010 work was conducted with a large municipal waste water treatment bureau (the "Bureau") to develop a strategy to characterize and manage exposures to these "legacy" materials. This Bureau operates more than 20 waste water treatment plants varying in age from 25 to 100 years. Each treatment plant consists of multiple buildings, miles of pipe, and an array of mechanical equipment. This project was initiated by the Bureau after an initial exposure assessment and sampling strategy developed by the Bureau was deemed to be too costly to implement.