PCBs Found in Caulk at 6 New York City Schools

A pilot study initiated earlier this year and involving three New York City schools revealed <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/pcbs_nyc_schools">polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination. A team involving elected officials, labor unions, and community groups has, since, demanded testing of some 700 schools that could be PCB contaminated. Now, parents calling for testing of caulk at city schools found high levels of PCB, according to officials involved, said the New York Daily News.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) previously said it believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs. These six city schools’ caulk was tested and levels of the dangerous, cancer-causing toxin were found at levels as high as 325,000 parts per million (ppm), said New York Communities for Change, reported The Daily News. The federal limit for PCBs is 50 ppm.

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. Because PCBs 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 with time.

“What we’re trying to do is find out all the facts,” said Latoya Ross, quoted The Daily News. Ross’ two children attend Public School 332. The elevated PCB levels were found at PS 16 in Staten Island, MS 53 in Queens; PS 149 in Manhattan; and PS 15, PS 56, and PS 332 in Brooklyn, noted The Daily News.

The three city schools tested as part of the pilot PCB testing program—P.S. 199, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side; P.S. 178, which is on Baychester Avenue in the Bronx; and P.S. 309, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn—all tested with PCB levels higher those deemed acceptable by the EPA.

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. The city announced that 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.

The Wall Street Journal previously wrote that a total of eight other classrooms at P.S. 53 were closed while authorities awaited EPA testing results. The EPA conducted the spot inspection, the first since it expressed frustration over how the city is handling PCBs in city schools, in response to how the city is handling the seemingly growing issue, 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.

The EPA recently found that 22 of 33 samples it took from P.S. 53 on Staten Island contain PCB levels exceeding the federal limit, noted The Daily News. Now, education officials announced a pilot study being conducted in collaboration with the EPA regarding PCBs in caulking, added The Daily News.

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