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PCBs in Our Schools

December 12th, 2019 by Lauren Tirrell


Soon after the school year began, damaged asbestos forced the relocation of students Franklin Learning Center. This is now the sixth Philadelphia school to be closed due to PCBs so far this school year. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, teachers marched to the school system’s North Broad Street headquarters to deliver a letter to the school board demanding the district fully remediate the school, which staff and students have said for years contains multiple environmental hazards.

“Our students and staff work hard every day to make FLC the award-winning school it is, but due to the negligence of the school district, we are paying for it with our health,” the teachers wrote. “We have seen staff and students develop new cases of asthma, allergies, breast cancer, lymphoma, brain tumors and autoimmune disorders at elevated rates. The toxic conditions at our school, though repeatedly ignored by the school district, are no mystery to those of us who endure them each day.”

In response to concerns raised by the public about Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in schools nationwide, Environmental Protection Agency scientists have been evaluating potential sources of PCBs in schools and are working to find methods to eliminate PCB emissions in a school setting.

According the EPA, scientists found through their research that:
  • Caulk put in place between 1950 and 1979 may contain as much as 40 percent PCBs and can emit PCBs into the surrounding air.
  • Fluorescent lighting fixtures that still contain their original PCB-containing light ballasts have exceeded their designed lifespan, and the chance for rupture and emitting PCBs is significant. Sudden rupture of PCB-containing light ballasts may result in exposure to the occupants and may also result in the addition of significant clean-up costs.
  • Some building materials (e.g., paint and masonry walls) and indoor dust can absorb PCB emissions and become potential secondary sources for PCBs. When the primary PCB-emitting sources are removed, the secondary sources often emit PCBs.
  • Encapsulation is a containment method that uses a coating material to separate PCB sources from the surrounding environment to reduce surface and air concentrations of PCBs. Encapsulation is only effective at reducing air concentrations to desirable levels when PCB content in the source is low. Selecting high-performance coating materials is key to effective encapsulation. Multiple layers of coatings enhance the performance of the encapsulation.

As EPA gains new information, it will make further recommendations regarding PCBs in schools and how to best prevent harmful exposure. In the meantime, it is crucial to stay proactive about monitoring and testing of our schools for these harmful contaminants in order to protect our youth and teachers.

Con-Test supports various types of PCB sampling projects including soil characterization, site investigations, wastewater permits, site remediation & air monitoring. Collectively, our team of analysts in the PCB laboratory have 64 years of dedicated relevant experience. You can count on Con-Test to provide reliable, dependable, and defensible data for any type of project.

Con-Test Analytical Laboratory is one of the leading environmental laboratories in the country. Located in the Greater Boston area, Con-Test services over 30 states nationally. Known as one of the top-quality environmental laboratories, Con-Test is a partner with leading international firms, the EPA, state governments, and more. Our diverse areas of expertise include air toxins, sediment, tissue, solids, aqueous, product testing and more. Contact us to learn more about our analytical testing services.
Posted in the category Water Testing.

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