PCBs in Schools: Know the Risks
Photo by Splash News
Supermodel Cindy Crawford made headlines this week after appearing on NBC’s “Today” show to raise awareness about the potential dangers of PCB, a common environmental toxin that has turned up at the Malibu high school that her children attend.
“I don’t feel 100 percent safe,” Crawford said in a “Today” show interview with NBC special correspondent Maria Shriver, according to ”Today”online. Crawford and other concerned parents at the school are keeping kids home until they are satisfied with testing results, and Crawford has even offered to foot the bill for additional testing.
The toxin in question, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), belongs to a category of manmade organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. The chemical was used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications for decades but the practice was banned in 1979. Today, the problem is that PCBs can still be found lingering in the environment as well as in buildings that predate the ban.
In the case of the Malibu school, one possible source of the contaminant is the old caulking used to seal the windows, according to the Malibu Times.
“This is not a Malibu issue,” Crawford said in the interview. “This is really an issue in a lot of older schools, and I just think the laws need to be changed.”
So what are the potential health concerns? Yahoo Health contacted Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. “PCBs are associated with a number of health effects, including cancer,” she explained. “Children’s exposure is of particular concern since PCBs have been associated with learning problems and hormone disruption. Proper hormone signaling is important for normal development. …In addition, PCBs are associated with low birth weight in both people and animals.”
The website of the Environmental Protection Agency has a lot of useful information about PCBs and confirms the use of PCBs in caulk in some buildings, including schools, built between 1950 and 1980.