After samples showed abnormal levels of a toxic compound, students and staff at an Edenwald elementary school are concerned.
The NYC Department of Environmental Protection conducted a series of tests at P.S. 68 on 4011 Monticello Avenue during the weekends of January and discovered high amounts, and in some cases up to 18 times the regulatory limit, of PCB chemicals within the schools lighting fixtures.
PCB, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, is a tasteless and odorless organic compound that was discovered to be hazardous to human health during the 1970s and the use of the PCBs in the construction of buildings was banned by the Congress in 1979.
Any buildings built before 1979 with PCB levels of higher than 50 parts per million must have the compound removed. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been in a long debate with city education officials about whether or not PCBs actually pose health hazards to people if they are exposed to the compound.
In room 111 at P.S. 68, DEP inspectors found a PCB level of 920 parts per million, which is 18 times more than the legal limit of 50, and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is extremely concerned with the recent discovery, asking for the immediate removal of any PCB contaminated areas in the school and elsewhere.
“PCBs are a serious threat to the health of both our children and the teachers, custodians and the other staff that go to work every day in our public schools,” Diaz said. “The city must protect the health of these individuals, children and adults alike. We cannot tolerate any further delays, too much is at stake.”
The studies by the federal government during the 1970s had determined that exposure to PCBs can cause recurring headaches, coughs, skin sores, irregular menstrual cycles, fatigue, rashes and in some cases can even cause cancer.
The PCB findings at P.S. 68 were in the form of oil drips from the lighting fixtures, primarily in three classrooms with levels of the compound between 260 and 920 parts per million.
The EPA has urged city officials to begin replacing the light fixtures at P.S. 68 and the other 800 schools throughout the city that are believed to have PCB exposure, however, officials are not budging on this request, saying the remediation would cost the city over $1 billion.
The school principal or teachers would not comment, however, Community Board 12 district manager Carmen Rosa is very concerned with the recent findings at P.S. 68 and she cannot believe that students and parents were not notified by the school.
“We have a serious health concern and the school and Department of Education need to take this seriously,” Rosa said. “We are talking about the lives of hundreds of our community’s children and adults whose health is at risk.”
According to Rosa, CB 12 will be writing a letter to the DOE expressing concern and asking for action.