By MIREYA NAVARRO
As I reported last week, many parents in New York City are worried about the presence of the chemicals known as PCBs in light fixtures and caulking in school buildings. The latest spot inspection by the federal Environmental Protection Agency — on Jan. 29 at Public School 68 in the Bronx –- turned up lighting ballasts that were leaking PCBs above the regulatory level of 50 parts per million in 10 of 13 samples taken, the agency announced Monday. Over the past several weeks, the E.P.A. found similar contamination at all three other city schools that it inspected, too.
Environmental Protection Agency
A ballast for a fluorescent lighting fixture that burst unexpectedly.For our Green blog readers, we submitted written questions to two experts at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan about any health risks faced by students and teachers.
The following responses, edited for brevity, were provided by Dr. Maida P. Galvez, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics and the director of the hospital’s Region 2 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics who is chairman of community medicine and the Department of Preventive Medicine as well as the school’s dean of global health.
Q.When did doctors awaken to the dangers of PCBs, or ploychlorinated biphenyls?
A. Medical and environmental concern about the long environmental persistence and possible effects on human health of PCBs first arose in the 1960s and 1970s and led to a federal ban on the manufacture of PCBs that was imposed in 1976 under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately, PCBs had already become widespread in the environment by that time, and they remain with us today...continue...