More PCBs have been found in New York City schools. This time, the PCB Contamination was found in two Brooklyn elementary schools -P.S. 13 and P.S. 358 – located in the same facility, said the Wall Street Journal. The PCB contamination was found in old light fixtures, making this, said the Journal, the third time spot inspections detected PCBs in light fixtures.
PCBs’ polychlorinated biphenyls -are man-made chemicals and PCB Health Problems include increased blood pressure and negative affects to the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems; PCBs 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 do build in our systems, increasing in strength with time.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs and have begun “in response to New York City not moving as quickly as it would have liked” to take its own action to better understand the scope of PCBs in New York City schools. We have been following the recent discoveries of PCBs in New York City schools, specifically in light ballasts, caulking, and floor tiles.
Yesterday, the EPA released its findings about P.S. 13 and 358, the two Brooklyn schools located in the same Brooklyn facility, said the Journal, in response to its most recent spot check. The agency’s goal, said the Journal, is to provoke city officials to act on what it sees as a critical need to remove the aging light fixtures. The EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs, warning that if New York City did not move quickly on the issue, it would begin taking its own action to better understand the scope of PCB contamination in the school system.
PCBs include about 200 compounds and are a class of very toxic chemicals ubiquitously found in construction materials and electrical products in many buildings from the 1950s until 1978, when they were phased out. PCBs which can be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy and in breast milk infiltrate plants, crops, fish, and small organisms, ultimately reaching those who eat these products, which means that nearly every human being on the planet carries some PCB in his/her body.
Most recently, the EPA found that 18 of 28 samples taken at P.S. 11 in Brooklyn detected PCB levels in excess of the 50 parts per million (ppm) legal limit. As with some of the other PCB contaminations, this one originated from leaking fluorescent ballasts
A pilot study was initiated last year with three NY city schools and revealed PCB contamination and led a team involving elected officials, labor unions, and community groups to demand testing of some 700 other schools that could also be PCB contaminated. Parents have also called for testing of caulk at city schools. The three city schools tested as part of the pilot PCB testing program “P.S. 199, 178, and 309” all tested with PCB levels higher those deemed acceptable by the EPA.
Six other city schools’ caulk was tested with PCB levels as high as 325,000 ppm. Elevated PCB levels were found at P.S. 16, 53 (Queens), 149, 15, 56, 332 and the EPA found that 22 of 33 samples it took from P.S. 53 on Staten Island contained levels exceeding the federal limit. Since, education officials announced a pilot study in collaboration with the EPA regarding PCBs in caulking. Eight other classrooms at P.S. 53 were closed and tests revealed dangerous PCB levels on floor tiles at P.S. 36.
The city’s Education Department says the PCB leakage is not serious enough to immediately risk children’s health, saying that the cost to replace the school system’s light fixtures is prohibitive at $1 billion dollars, said the Journal. Environmental consumer advocates feel the figure is an overstatement and argue that long-term risks from PCBs are significant to children, teachers, and staff, added the Journal.
The EPA took seven samples from light fixtures in five rooms at P.S. 13 and 358, said the Journal. Tests revealed levels exceeding the federal limit at between 70 and 560 ppm.