PCB Problem at One Staten Island School Fixed, New York City Says

We recently wrote that ten classrooms in two elementary schools on Staten Island were closed as test results were pending on children and staff over potential exposure to the dangerous toxin, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/pcbs_nyc_schools">Ploychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). PCBs have been making headlines for potential contamination in New York City’s school system. Now, says WNYC, citing the city, the air is safe at the Staten Island school in which PCBs leaked from light fixtures in two classrooms.

Tests previously revealed dangerous PCB levels on floor tiles at PS 36; however, recent samples from the two impacted classrooms revealed levels below the standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said WNYC. Sam Pirozzolo, president of Community Education Council 31 on Staten Island, said he’s relieved about the results, but has concerns over how the problem was handled by officials.
”They physically told us that every light was inspected, and we looked up and there was a light that was not inspected,” he said, quoted WNYC. “We went around the partition to the cafeteria and found two more lights that had PCB ballast leaks,” Pirozzolo added.

PCBs are man-made chemicals that have been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including, most recently, increased blood pressure. PCBs were widely used in construction materials and electrical products prior to 1978. The toxins can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer causing if they build up in the body over long periods of time.

Although the two involved classrooms at the school were closed, PS 36 remained open as test results were pending, said WNYC. Despite this, a good majority of parents—about 75 percent—kept their children at home last Monday, noted WNYC.

“We are inspecting the light fixtures,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg, quoted WNYC. “If we see stains or residue, we will remove the light fixture. If we find a ballast leaking, we will replace the ballast. If we find ballasts that are not leaking, we will replace them if we have them in stock. If we don’t have them in stock, we will take an inventory and replace them once we get the material.” Parents are scheduled to meet with representatives of the EPA next week, said WNYC.

The Wall Street Journal previously wrote that a total of eight other classrooms at P.S. 53 were closed while authorities wait for test results from EPA testing. The EPA spot inspection, the first since it expressed frustration over how the city is handling PCBs in city schools, said the Journal. The EPA warned that if the city did not move quickly on the issue, that it would begin taking its own action to better understand the scope of PCB contamination in the school system.

A pilot study, which was initiated earlier this year, involved three other New York City schools. A team involving elected officials, labor unions, and community groups has, since, demanded testing of some 700 schools that could be PCB contaminated. EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs.

PCBs are significantly problematic because they do not easily degrade and can remain in our bodies for many years; the longer we live, the more these toxins build in our systems, increasing in strength over time.

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