Federal

EPA Urges Schools to Check for Caulk Containing PCBs

By The Associated Press — October 06, 2009 1 min read

The danger to students is uncertain, and the EPA does not know for sure how many schools could be affected. But the agency is telling schools that they should test old caulk and remove it if PCBs turn up in significant amounts.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said PCBs remain in schools and many other buildings built before the chemicals were banned in the late 1970s. Formally known as polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs were widely used in construction and electrical materials.

“We’re concerned about the potential risks associated with exposure to these PCBs, and we’re recommending practical, common-sense steps to reduce this exposure as we improve our understanding of the science,” Ms. Jackson said in a news release Sept. 25.

The agency said it would conduct new research into the link between PCBs in caulk and in the air, which it said is not well understood. Studies in European countries have shown that PCBs in caulk contribute to dust and air inside schools and other buildings.

The EPA now recommends testing for PCBs in peeling, brittle, cracking, or deteriorating caulk in schools and other buildings that were built or renovated between 1950 and 1978. The caulk should be removed if PCBs are found at significant levels, the agency says. The EPA also will conduct its own tests on PCBs in schools.

The law already requires that building owners remove caulk if they discover very high levels of PCBs. But proper removal is expensive.

“It’s a huge disincentive for building owners,” said Robert Herrick of Harvard University’s school of public health. “If you look for it and find it, you have to report it to the EPA and remove it, so why would you look for it in the first place?”

He said Berkshire Community College in Massachusetts saw an approximately $2 million project for window replacement and renovation increase to $5 million after engineers tested caulk and found PCBs.

Earlier this month, a mother in the Bronx sued New York City over PCBs in caulk at her daughter’s public school.

New York City schools spokeswoman Ann Forte declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the school system is talking with the EPA about a plan to address PCBs in the city’s schools.

Federal officials say the issue is serious but should not be cause for alarm. The agency has also set up a PCBs-in-caulk hotline, (888) 835-5372, and Web site.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 07, 2009 edition of Education Week as EPA Urges Schools to Check for Caulk Containing PCBs

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

President and CEO
Alexandria, Virginia
National Association of State Boards of Education
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.

Read Next

Federal Congress Again Tries to Pass Eagles Act, Focused on School Shootings After Parkland
A group of bipartisan Congressional lawmakers is once again trying to get a law passed aimed at preventing school violence.
Devoun Cetoute & Carli Teproff
2 min read
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Some Districts Extend Paid Leave Policies as They Hope for Passage of Biden Relief Plan
With federal provisions having expired, some school employees have had to dip into their own banks of leave for COVID-19 purposes.
5 min read
Linda Davila-Macal, a seventh grade reading teacher at BL Garza Middle School in Edinburg, Texas, works from her virtual classroom at her home on Aug. 31, 2020.
A teacher leads a virtual classroom from her home.
Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP
Federal President Biden Is Walking a 'Careful Tightrope' When It Comes to School Reopenings
CDC guidance and confusion over his rhetoric turn up the pressure, and could overshadow progress in schools and nuanced public opinion.
9 min read
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, 2021.
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event in Milwaukee earlier this month.
Evan Vucci/AP
Federal White House Unveils New Money to Aid COVID-19 Testing in Schools, But Says More Is Needed
Federal agencies will use $650 million to expand testing in schools and "underserved communities" such as homeless shelters.
2 min read
Image of a coronavirus test swab.
The White House announced new money to help schools test students and staff for COVID-19, but it said more aid is necessary to scale up those efforts.
E+