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6/19/12 - As PCB Issue Lingers, Removal Will Be Expedited at a Brooklyn School

New York Times/School Book

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is a Trust grantee for this work.

As PCB Issue Lingers, Removal Will Be Expedited at a Brooklyn School
By Hiten Samtani

A Brooklyn public school building that had leaking light fixtures will be moved to the top of the list of schools with PCB problems, and the city will replace its lighting very soon, city officials said last week.

The building, which houses P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School and Middle School 448 Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies on Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, had light fixtures known to contain polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. These are toxic chemicals that have been associated with health effects like skin conditions and immune system and cognitive deficiencies. Research also indicates that PCBs cause cancer, with the risk rising with prolonged exposure.

The city’s Department of Education’s plan to replace the lighting in city schools has been controversial, to say the least, because of the pace of its timetable. Federal officials, as well as parents at a number of schools, including P.S. 146, have been pressing the city to move more quickly.

The city has a list of schools — more than 700 in all — that have light fixtures containing PCBs, and has set a 10-year timeline for the fixtures’ removal.
Last year the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the city’s timeline, saying removal needed to be done in five years or less.

The Department of Education has said that it wants to make the fixture removal part of a top-to-bottom energy retrofit, and that it cannot move more quickly.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said: “The potential for health effects from PCBs, as with other chemicals, depends on how much, how often and how long someone is exposed. Scientific studies have not shown PCB exposures from building materials to cause health effects in building occupants. It is very unlikely that long-term environmental exposures to PCBs in buildings will increase risk for health effects, including cancer.”

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