Toxic PCBs Found in New York Public Schools


Low levels of PCBs, a chemical compound linked to cancer, have been found in public schools across New York. The New York Times reports leaky light ballasts are to blame. Parents are being told that there is no immediate danger, but that long-term exposure could increase health risks. The city isn’t exactly rushing to fix the problem, either.

The report states:

The Bloomberg administration has disputed the urgency of replacing all of the T-12-style fluorescent lighting, estimating it would cost about $1 billion. Its negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency continue.

The EPA ran their own tests on four schools (PS 13 and PS 358 — which share a building — and PS 11 in Brooklyn and PS 53 on Staten Island) and found they all contained light fixtures that exceeded the federal regulatory limits of PCB levels.

Risk statistics are vague, and a child’s diet or exposure to other environmental sources could result in high levels of the toxin in his or her blood.

Due to budget concerns, large-scale action will have to wait:

City officials are replacing ballasts where they are found to be leaking and asking custodians to visually inspect fixtures and report any sign of leakage, pending the negotiations with the E.P.A. on the timing of any citywide replacement plan.

Yesterday we reported on PCBs and other toxins being discovered in the Gowanus Canal. That was bad, but 1.1 million kids don’t swim in it everyday.

Parents Seek More Action on PCBs in Schools [NYT]

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