School District’s Own Tests Show Shocking PCB Levels
Highly Toxic Classrooms Still Occupied with No Abatement Date Slated
Los Angeles — New test results posted by the Santa Monica-Malibu school district (SMMUSD) show nine classrooms and other facilities containing toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in concentrations up to 11,000 times above federal safety limits. The revelation came a day after America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sued the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District for violating the federal Toxic Substances Control Act involving excessive levels of PCBs in school buildings.
The new test results prepared by the district’s own consultant showed PCB levels ranging from 330 parts-per-million to 570,000 ppm, meaning that over 50% of the caulk sample was pure PCB, a cancer-causing, banned chemical. By contrast, the federal safety limit is just 50 ppm. Despite these extremely high levels of a highly toxic chemical banned by Congress, all of these rooms are still in use by students and teachers of the combined elementary, middle and high schools. Elementary school special needs students are in a classroom tested at 470,000 ppm.
The troubling nature of these ultra-high results is compounded by the manner of their release –
- Nine months ago, America Unites and PEER had arranged independent testing of the caulking in these same rooms showing similar high levels. The district ignored these findings and only tested these rooms after the groups filed their Notice of Intent to Sue. Despite this recent verification, the district still opposes school-wide testing of caulking;
- At the school board meeting on March 19, 2015, the district’s own consultant, Douglas Daugherty of Environ, contended that independent tests could not be verified. In fact at that time, he already had in his possession their own test results reflecting PCB concentrations that were significantly higher than the independent samples; and
- On March 20th, 2015 America Unites for Kids and PEER demanded that any testing done be immediately released to the public. On Monday, March 23rd, after the Federal lawsuit was filed, the district posted these test results on their website buried in a table within a 200 plus page document.
“What school district officials have done is monstrous – they are deliberately keeping students and teachers in highly toxic classrooms with no precautions to prevent direct contact with PCBs,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. “These results are the smoking gun evidence, from its own gun, that the district is in flagrant violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.”
The Malibu schools have been roiled by this issue since October 2013, when a group of teachers jointly expressed concern about health effects, ranging from thyroid cancer to migraines, from toxic contamination on campus. In the ensuing months, the district has opposed wider testing and/or removal of contaminants, despite spending significant sums on lawyers and consultants.
“I am stunned that district officials and their consultants stood in front of us on Thursday evening and did not disclose these extraordinarily high test results!” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids. “This illustrates to all of us that the district is going to stop at nothing to defend its indefensible position of leaving illegal levels of PCBs in the schools which put students and teachers in harm’s way.”