In addition to a growing number of New York City schools found to have PCB Contamination, P.S. 45 in Bushwick, Brooklyn turned up with the highest level of PCBs, to date. WPIX wrote that the most recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing revealed PCBs at a massive 660 parts per million (ppm), the highest level the EPA as discovered, thus far.
All of the 19 samples taken from lighting fixtures in 11 classrooms at the school were above the limit and the EPA believes that the PCBs in Light Fixtures originated with burned out capacitors in fixtures that had failed, said WPIX.
We recently wrote that PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, turned up in three other New York City schools and that spot checks of New York City schools by the EPA have turned up PCBs leaking from light ballasts in all five New York City school buildings tested previously; all of the tests have confirmed leakage of PCBs above the federal limit of 50 ppm. Also, according to a prior Wall Street Journal report, the toxic substances turned up in a Manhattan building that houses three schools P.S. 206, P.S. 37 and P.S. 112. WPIX also reported that PCB Contamination was confirmed at P.S. 11. P.S. 13, and P.S. 45.
The EPA has been pushing for a broader solution to the problem of PCBs in New York City schools, and wants the city to begin removing all the fixtures that contain PCBs, not just those where leakage has been confirmed. City officials argue that the toxic chemicals pose no immediate threat to students or school staff. According to the Department of Education, 1,120 schools use the light fixtures linked to PCBs, the Journal said.
PCBs 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 EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs. In addition to New York, the toxic chemicals have also been detected in school districts in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Oregon. But, so far, the EPA has conducted spot inspections only in New York, the country’s largest school system.
Now, says the Wall Street Journal, officials with New York City have approved a plan to seek bids for the work involved to replace aging light systems in the city’s school system. New York City intends on spending $708 million to implement the plan at 772 public-school buildings over ten years, said the Journal.
The city and the EPA have long been at an impasse over the issue of replacing light fixtures that could be contaminated with the dangerous toxin and the prohibitive price of that replacement. Due to what the EPA felt was a slow New York City response, the EPA began conducting spot checks at a variety of schools following a pilot program in which the three pilot schools tested with high levels of PCBs.
The city also plans to conduct energy audits and replace old or inefficient boilers throughout the school system as part of the program, WPIX added, noting that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration said the program would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by over 200,000 metric tons annually.