Congressmen Nadler, Crowley and Serrano Commend City’s Movement Forward on PCB Removal

February 23, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, New York City Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Joseph Crowley, and José Serrano commended the City for taking an important step in addressing PCBs in public schools in response to repeated calls from a broad coalition of elected officials, advocates, and parents, but expressed strong concern with the pace of remediation proposed in the City’s light ballast remediation plan.  In recent months, the evidence of PCB contamination in the schools has been mounting rapidly.

Congressman Nadler said, "I am pleased that, after many months of our calls on the City to take the PCB risk seriously, it has finally agreed to take a first real step in addressing this mounting problem.  Today's announcement by the City that it is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to remediate PCB contaminated light ballasts is a critical step forward.   However, the City's time frame of 10 years to replace the light ballasts is unacceptable.  Continued exposure to toxic PCBs will continue to place our children, teachers and school staff at risk.  We cannot ignore the urgency of this very real and growing public health problem, and the City must act quickly to remove these dangerous chemicals from our schools."

“Today’s announcement by the City is a welcome step forward,” said Congressman Crowley. “Parents should never have to question if the school where their children spend their days might actually make their children sick. As we have said, a problem of this magnitude requires federal assistance, which is why we introduced legislation to help local officials shoulder the burden. However, to fully rid our schools of PCBs once and for all we must include all potential sources of contamination, including aging window caulk, and I urge the City to move forward with a truly comprehensive cleanup plan. We must do all we can to ensure our children are absorbing knowledge in the classroom, and not dangerous chemicals.” 

“I am pleased that the City is going to take action on the very serious threat of PCBs in our schools,” said Congressman Serrano. “For several years we have been calling for action and indeed introduced a bill to help with the cleanup costs during the last Congress. So while the progress is welcome, I am concerned that the reports of the City’s plan only includes replacing the light fixtures and not the PCB-laden caulking that has been found in many schools. It is time to quickly and completely eliminate all the forms of this horrible contaminant in schools.”

EPA inspections of public schools throughout the City have turned up PCB leaks in light fixtures and toxic air levels.  Most recently, in P.S. 45 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, the EPA found that all 19 inspected fixtures had high levels of PCBs, with some more than 10,000 times the federal threshold for removal.  PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, are a suspected carcinogen, a known neurotoxin and a fertility toxin, making exposure for children and women of reproductive age particularly dangerous. They have been known to cause cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and cognitive disabilities. In children, this problem is more acute; with long term exposure associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased aggression and cognitive disabilities. 

Today, Mayor Bloomberg announced his $708 million plan affecting 772 public schools, which will include the removal and replacement of all PCB lighting ballasts throughout the entire school system.  The plan is based on a ten-year implementation period that may be accelerated after a review in 2014.