PCBs in New York City Schools Prompt Call For Action

Following the discovery of dangerous levels of PCBs leaking from aging light fixtures at P.S. 68 in the Bronx—the latest in a string of schools found to have <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/PCBs_health_concerns">PCB contamination—Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor for education and community development, Dennis Walcott, said the Bronx News Network.

On January 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspected 11 rooms at P.S. 68 and found PCB levels there were above regulatory limits in nine rooms tested, The Associated Press (AP) reported. This is the fourth New York City school the EPA has tested; every school has tested with higher-than-mandated PCB levels, the AP said.

Borough President Diaz requested an immediate response to resolve the problems at P.S. 68, including a probe into potential P<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/pcbs_nyc_schools">CBs in New York City Schools in the next year and a-half, noted the Bronx News Network.

PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are man-made chemicals that can still be found in many products and materials produced before a PCB ban was instituted in 1979. The toxic substances are known carcinogens, and other PCB Health Problems include increased blood pressure and negative affects to the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Most people have low levels of PCBs in their bodies, mostly from exposure through foods like fish and dairy products but also from air, indoor dust, and outside soils.

The official response to the PCB contamination turning up in a growing number of New York City schools has been, in the eyes of the federal EPA, inadequate, leading the agency to take matters into its own hands. Worse, in addition to PCBs in Light Fixtures, PCBs in New York City Schools have turned up in tiles and caulking in these older buildings.

“PCBs are a serious threat to the health of both our children and the teachers, custodians and other staff that go to work every day in our public schools. The City must protect the health of these individuals, children and adults alike, and begin the immediate testing of all school buildings that may be at risk of PCB contamination. We cannot tolerate any further delays, too much is at stake,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement, quoted the Bronx News Network.

The letter, in part, explained that 10 of 13 samples revealed PCB contamination in excess of the regulatory limit of 50 parts per million (ppm) including one room with an oil pool with a PCB level of 920 ppm; a room with an oil film with a PCB level of 320 ppm, and a third room with oil drips with a PCB level of 260 ppm, wrote the Bronx News Network. The Borough President expressed concern that contamination is taking place in “oil pools, film, and drips,” which could lead to PCBs being transmitted by “clothing or other materials,” added the Bronx New Network.

Of note, a pilot testing program conducted by the EPA revealed levels of PCB contamination in some New York City schools exceeding federal health guidelines. According to The New York Times, the EPA was so concerned that it told the Bloomberg Administration that further tests could not wait until summer 2011 and began its own spot inspections last month.

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