Whether they know it or not, school districts will have to confront an environmental threat born of construction practices dating back more than half a century: contamination from toxic chemicals known as PCBs. Though their manufacture is now banned due to their health consequences, they were once ubiquitous in school building materials, used in caulking, insulation, light fixtures, and more. Their presence has sparked multimillion-dollar lawsuits, costly testing and remediation efforts, school shutdowns, and headaches for local administrators. Education Week visited communities dealing with PCBs in their schools to assess the human and fiscal impact of this evolving challenge, made worse by a chronic lack of infrastructure funding.
- 'The Building Was Sick': PCBs Pose an Environmental Crisis for SchoolsThousands of schools face the costly, disruptive prospect of finding and eliminating a toxic chemical once used in building materials.
Lead image: Caution tape and caution signs surround Burlington High School in Burlington, Vt., on May 9, 2021.
—Luke Awtry for Education Week