PCB toxins found inside Bronx Science

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Correction appended 

The Bronx High School of Science officially joined the Bronx New School, PS 51 last week as a local school containing a hazardous chemical linked to numerous health problems. 

A list released on March 23 shows that Bronx Science has PCBs — or polychlorinated biphenyls — visibly leaking from its light fixtures. It is one of 149 buildings and 245 schools in the city with visible leakage, meaning its fixtures will be replaced within a year, NY1 first reported.

PCBs like the ones found inside Bronx Science were banned in 1978, but before that were used in the insulating oil contained in the ballasts of light fixtures, known as T12 light fixtures. PCBs can also be found in caulk surrounding windows and doorframes and have been linked to attention deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and more, according to the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. 

However, according to Science principal Valerie Reidy, all 89 of the T12 light ballasts have been replaced and the fluid was not leaking out of the lights. 

Bronx Science’s T12 fixtures were identified as leaking PCB-contaminated fluid through a program in which the DOE instructs custodians to walk around their schools and look at the lights, a process that is completely ineffective, according to Ms. Giorgio. She said not all T12 light fixtures visibly leak but PCBs have been found in 100 percent of the schools that have had their light fixtures inspected by Environmental Protection Agency and DOE officials. 

Other local schools outfitted with T12 light fixtures include the Multiple Intelligence School, PS/MS 37, PS 7 and Robert J. Christen School, PS 81.

The DOE has not cooperated with the NYLPI’s request to replace all T12 light fixtures that contain PCBs swiftly, but has instead opted for a 10-year plan unless the fixtures are visibly leaking. 

DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said officials are acting aggressively and responsibly. 

“PCBs are in no way unique to New York City and frankly, it’s inappropriate that politicians are attempting to scare parents with shoddy information gained by people trespassing into schools and doing unscientific tests,” she wrote in an e-mail. “ … NYC has embarked on an unprecedented effort, devoting nearly $800 million in city resources toward addressing PCBs in our public schools by replacing old light fixtures … ”  

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