New York City officials and the Environmental Protection Agency disagree on the urgency of testing for PCBs in public schools. PCBs are toxic chemicals that have been shown in preliminary studies to be leaking from old fluorescent fixtures in school buildings. The city says the problem could affect 750 to 850 of the city’s 1,200 public school buildings.
The city’s administration says the contamination is not a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, and thinks the preliminary study should be completed before full-scale inspections are carried out. The EPA wants to begin inspections next month. If all the old light fixtures need to be replaced, it will cost the city about $1 billion, reports the New York Times. Any fixtures found to be leaking would have to be removed.
The EPA feels that action needs to be taken as soon as possible, because exposure to PCBs can cause cancer, and have a negative impact on the reproductive and immune systems. “The protection of public health dictates that measures be taken to reduce this exposure as quickly and completely as reasonably possible,” said Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator for New York.
Dennis M. Walcott, deputy mayor for education and community development, feels that completing the pilot testing program would allow the school system to develop the best plan to correct the problem.
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