Parents Push for Faster PCB Removal

Parents at a Brooklyn elementary school are calling on the Department of Education to move faster to remove toxic PCBs from lighting fixtures in school buildings around the city.

At a rally on Monday outside P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens, Alexis Quy said she and other parents had sent the Education Department photographs of likely leaks of the chemical compound.

“To know that there’s a toxic substance in this school that is leaking into the air, that is actually leaking onto surfaces where they can ingest and inhale, seems unbelievable,” she said.

Ms. Quy said parents had also sent letters and petitions, and they were not happy with the response from education officials.

“They say that it poses no immediate health risk," she said. "O.K. So, our children aren’t going to come into the school and start coughing and wheezing. However, what will happen in 10 years?”

A decade is the amount of time the city says it needs to remove and replace all the lighting fixtures in more than 700 school buildings constructed before the 1979 ban on PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are used in the devices that regulate electric current for fluorescent lights. Long-term exposure can lead to cancer and affect immune and reproductive systems.

In a statement, the Education Department said the time frame was in keeping with its goal to minimize disruption to students and staff members by doing work outside of school hours.

But a parent, Tish Doggett, said 10 years would leave some students exposed for most of their school years. She said the department’s response reminded her of the time her children suffered lead poisoning in an apartment that was not up to code.

"I kind of feel like I'm in the same situation," Ms. Doggett said. "We have a negligent landlord here who's not taking care of our children's health.”

Ms. Doggett and other parents at the rally were joined by State Senator Daniel Squadron and a representative of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which sued the Education Department last July, contending the 10-year plan would put children at risk.

Members of the coalition say they planned to ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency to step in with its own investigation.

There's been no response yet to a request for comment from the EPA Region 2 office, which includes New York.