Elected officials and community members, along with NYLPI, Planned Parenthood New York and NARAL Pro-Choice New York, gathered at the steps of City Hall yesterday morning to call for the immediate disposal of lighting fixtures leaking PCB in New York Schools.
PCB is a highly toxic chemical that was commonly used until the seventies in construction, mainly in caulk and lighting ballasts. In 1979, legislation was passed banning the manufacturing and resale of any product with PCB, but remains of these products were still used in construction into the early nineties.
Women and small children are the most adversely affected by continued exposure to PCB. Exposure can harm a woman’s ability to bear and nurse their children, and even small amounts of PCB exposure several years before a pregnancy can harm the child’s health. Studies show that PCB is also linked to behavioral disorders, heart disease, thyroid dysfunction, ADHD, asthma, childhood leukemia, reduced immune function, and more.
Over 700 schools in New York City alone could have light fixtures leaking PCBs. Possibly contaminated schools in the neighborhood include, but are not limited to , , and The full list of schools with possible PCB exposure is available here.
The EPA has developed a plan to remove all PCB contaminated light fixtures over the next ten years, saying that women and children at these schools do not have any immediate health risks.
For Congressman Jerrold Nadler and other public health advocates, this is far too long.
“We cannot wait ten years for remediation, when countless children and teachers may be exposed to these toxic chemicals,” Nadler said at City Hall Monday morning. “This is utterly unacceptable, and we do not need to sit quietly by as women and children are put at risk.”
PCB is proven to be a highly toxic and harmful chemical, but it is not yet known how much exposure leads to negative effects.
“You’re not going to walk into a classroom that has PCBs leaking and have immediate health effects,” said Ilan Kayatsky, Communication Director from Congressman Nadler’s office. “We don’t know how many days it takes, so who would want to take that kind of risk with their kids, or with women of reproductive age?”
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has sponsored legislation that will remove the contaminated light fixtures from New York City schools within three years, cutting seven years off the current plan.
“The City is well aware of the dangers of PCB exposure to children,” Rosenthal said at the conference. “Just what will it take for the City to finally act?”
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