Study: Banned for Decades, Some Dangerous Chemicals Still Remain in U.S. Schools 

  • Environmental Working Group
A new report from the environmental watchdog group EWG asserts too many of America’s children could be exposed to toxic chemicals in thousands of U.S. schools.

The report, The ABC's of PCBs, authored by Harvard University professor Dr. Robert Herrick, concluded that as many as 26,000 U.S. schools have caulking, sealants and fluorescent lights that are leaching polychlorinated-biphenyls.

PCBs were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1979 after the chemical was found to have possible negative consequences on human health. More recent studies have associated the chemical with cancer, neurological damage and learning deficits, among other serious issues.

The new analysis reveals 14 million students around the nation attend schools contaminated with PCBs, including in Idaho. 

The report indicates PCBs were discovered in Idaho State University's Reed Gymnasium in 2007. Soon after the discovery, ISU officials said they completely replaced their ventilation system and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality confirmed there were no longer any PCBs left in the gym.

While 26,000 schools constructed between the 1950s and 1979 may have exposed children to the chemical, according to the report, the EPA merely recommends testing for PCBs be done.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford, spokeswoman for the nonprofit America Unites for Kids—another partner in the release of the report—said she went so far as to remove her two kids from Malibu High School due to her concerns about PCB exposure.

The report also looked into availability of information regarding PCBs on state websites. It examined the presence of general information, testing and reporting guidance, disposal guidance and information about PCBs in lamp ballasts and caulking. While Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey had sufficient information in all categories, 16 states were found to have no information at all.

The report indicated that Idaho has a mixed record when it comes to reporting: while the Gem State has some information on disposal guidance on state websites, there is no indication of testing or reporting guidance.
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