New Malibu Tests Show Alarming Classroom Contamination
Severe Health Risk from Most Toxic Form of PCBs in Stratospheric Concentrations
Malibu — New testing in Malibu school facilities shows a significant exposure risk from the most virulent form of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in concentrations millions of times above health standards, according to EPA-certified laboratory results released today by Malibu Unites and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The groups are calling upon the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to immediately move students and teachers out of dangerous classrooms and into portable units.
PCBs are a family of more than 200 related chemical compounds, called congeners, some of which are orders of magnitude more toxic than total PCBs. Congener 126 is the most toxic of all PCBs, causing alterations in hormone production, disruptions in cellular processes, and altered gene expression.
The District had found the presence of congener 126 in their own November 2013 tests. Now, an EPA-certified lab re-ran independent samples from two rooms at the Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School that had high overall PCB levels reported by PEER and Malibu Unites in July. These new tests found the presence of congener 126 at 122 ppm and 57 ppm – up to more than three million times more toxic than the EPA health-based screening level guide.
“These new tests show a serious health risk that warrants direct and immediate action,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of Malibu Unites, who has been calling for comprehensive source testing, expedited remediation and for students and staff to be moved into portable classrooms. “The district has more than $100,000,000 in school renovation bond money ear-marked for health and safety, so there should be no reason for hesitation in employing a precautionary approach immediately by providing PCB-free learning environments for our students and staff. Our approach is reasonable and practical and puts students and staff’s health first.”
The groups point to high potential for exposure to PCBs in caulk. According to the EPA, “PCBs are semi-volatile organic chemicals and can be transported in and around buildings through vaporization into the air and through absorption into dust and materials.” Children may be exposed to the PCB not only by inhalation of the contaminated air, but also by inhaling, touching or ingesting the dust through normal hand-to-mouth contact. That is why Congress and EPA have banned PCBs in caulk above minimum concentrations far lower than those found in Malibu.
The new test results have been sent to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing potential criminal nuisance and child endangerment charges against the school district. In addition, Malibu Unites and PEER have served the district with a 60-day notice of intent to sue for violation of PCB removal provisions of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
“Given the pathways of exposure and the presence of PCB 126 at high levels, there is an unreasonable health risk to children, teachers, and pregnant women at the schools,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that the District is pledging to remove PCBs found at illegal levels but will not commit to testing the sources to know where the PCBs exist. “The District needs to drop its irresponsible ‘don’t-test, don’t-know’ posture with respect to toxic classrooms and take definitive action now to protect students, teachers, staff as well as the Malibu community.”