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NYC Tackles Possible PCB Contamination in Schools

By Minara El-Rahman on January 21, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New York City and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced a pilot program that would look into the possible PCB contamination in building materials in public schools citywide. The New York Times reports that there might be PCB contamination in the caulking around doors and windows of some city schools. Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps to make windows, door frames, masonry and joints in buildings and other structures watertight or airtight. At one time caulk was manufactured to contain PCBs because PCBs imparted flexibility.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) are known to cause cancer in animals and are most likely carcinogenic in humans. Recent studies suggest that it may also have adverse effects on the reproductive and endocrine systems. It can also hinder child development. However, the presence of PCB in caulk and its effects are not yet known.

The EPA estimates that there are hundreds of schools with PCB contaminated caulking around the country. They hope that this pilot program will serve as a model for other school districts to use in order to test and address possible PCB contamination in building materials. EPA regional administrator Judith Enck told the New York Times: ''The work that the city of New York has agreed to do will go a long way toward helping us better understand the potential risks posed by PCBs in caulk, and our work to reduce the exposure of school children, teachers and others who work in New York City public schools."

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