View Full Version : All NYC PCBs in New York Schools Prompt Parents' Concerns

02-03-2011, 02:25 PM
This from the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/nyregion/04pcb.html) by Mireya Navarro:
As the father of an 8-year-old attending Public School 36 on Staten Island, Richard P. Ghiraldi was alarmed to learn that students were being exposed to a known carcinogen in the classrooms.

Last month, Mr. Ghiraldi and hundreds of other parents kept their children home from school for four days after tests showed that lighting ballasts — the devices that convert current into electricity for fluorescent lights— were leaking the highly toxic chemical compounds known as PCBs onto the light fixtures and floor tiles.

“I was surprised they still had these old ballasts in schools,” Mr. Ghiraldi, a 40-year-old paralegal, said. “You’d think the custodians and the teachers would think it’d be a danger.”

Yet as he and other worried parents in New York City press doctors and government officials on the specific risks that their children face from toiling beneath the aging classroom fixtures, which remain in some 800 of 1,200 city school buildings, the answers have been frustratingly vague.

There is no immediate health risk from PCBs lingering in schools, all are told, yet with one important caveat: the longer the exposure, the higher the risk.

“Everything is so obscure,” said Mr. Ghiraldi, who noted that his son Stephen, a third-grader, has attended P.S. 36 since kindergarten. “I do worry that it may have some impact on him in the future — a cancer, some kind of illness.”

Widely used in electrical products and construction materials like caulk before a federal ban took effect in the late 1970s, PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have been linked to cancer, impairment of immune and reproductive functions, and other illnesses, as well as lower I.Q. levels.

Adding to the parental stress in a strained budget year, the Bloomberg administration has disputed the urgency of replacing all of the aged T-12-style fluorescent lighting, estimating it would cost about $1 billion. Its negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency continue.

Anxiety about the dangers posed by PCBs began rising last summer after the city undertook a pilot testing program with the E.P.A. that revealed levels of air contamination exceeding federal guidelines for safety. It soared after the agency, effectively overruling the Bloomberg administration, said further tests could not wait until summer 2011 and began its own spot inspections to identify leaking ballasts last month.

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