CONGRESSMAN LIEU GRATEFUL TO AU FOR TIRELESS PROTECTION OF KIDS

Washington – Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey’s release of a report on the existence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools.

“The stunning report from Senator Edward Markey on PCBs in schools shows that the EPA and school districts must do far more to address this toxic substance. The EPA and school districts can no longer pretend that if they don’t test for PCBs, somehow this poisonous issue will just go away. Monsanto, which made PCBs, should be ashamed for putting so many children at risk.

“I am grateful that America Unites for Kids and its President Jennifer deNicola have fought tirelessly to ensure that students are not exposed to harmful PCBs. This report, as well as the recent court ruling, vindicates America Unites and demonstrates that preserving the status quo is not an acceptable option for our children.

“It is important that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District swiftly complete its plans to remove PCBs from schools as ordered by the District Court. I also urge EPA to prioritize the issue of PCBs in schools and to work closely with school districts to ensure that the local community is not exposed to dangerous chemicals. I look forward to working with Senator Markey, America Unites and other stakeholders on this critical issue.”

Senator Ed Markey’s PCB in Schools Report on the Poisoning of America’s Schools

Senator Markey released a report which exposes the widespread issue of PCBs in schools, the failures of the EPA to protect children and teachers, and the need for Congress to take action to ensure America’s public schools are tested for PCBs. Jennifer deNicola has spent the last 3 years advocating for proper testing and removal of toxic PCBs from Malibu schools and just last month won a precedent setting case in Federal Court against the Santa Monica School Board. She and Cindy Crawford met with Senator Markey in June 2016 to address the national issue of PCB in schools harming America’s children.
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WASHINGTON – Up to 14 million students in 26,000 U.S. schools could be exposed to unsafe levels of a notorious class of chemicals banned almost 40 years ago, according to a recent study by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The chemicals, known as PCBs, are leaching from caulking, sealants, and other aging building materials and fixtures. In a report released Wednesday, Oct. 5, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., analyzed the Harvard findings and calculated that up to 30 percent of American children in elementary, middle and high school may still be exposed to these dangerous industrial chemicals, despite a 1979 ban by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to EPA data obtained by Markey’s office, which was also analyzed by EWG and America Unites for Kids, in the last decade the EPA has received 286 reports of potential PCB contamination of school buildings in 20 states. These incidents ranged from the removal of a single fluorescent light fixture to large-scale remediation undertaken by some of the nation’s largest school districts.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have been linked to cancer, harm to the immune system, neurological damage, learning deficits, lowered birth weight and decreased thyroid function. Manufactured from the 1920s to the 1970s by Monsanto, PCBs were used as insulators for electrical equipment, oils for hydraulic systems, plasticizers in paints and caulks, components of fluorescent light fixtures and in consumer products such as carbonless copy paper. Not long after Monsanto introduced PCBs, the company discovered they were hazardous, but hid that information from the public and regulators.

Schoolchildren are most often exposed by old, PCB-laden caulk and crumbling fluorescent light fixtures. They may also come in contact with PCBs that leached into soil, or that were incorporated into paints and floor finishes. Any school building constructed between the 1950s and the late 1970s is likely to test positive for PCBs, but the EPA does not currently require such tests.

“PCBs are some of the most toxic and persistent chemicals ever produced,” said Ken Cook, president of EWG, which in a 2005 study found 147 different PCB contaminants in the umbilical cord blood of 10 American newborns. “It’s shocking to find that while they were banned decades ago, millions of kids and other Americans continue to be exposed today.”

Districts grappling with PCBs include the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in Southern California. In response to a lawsuit by the citizens’ group America Unites for Kids, last month a federal judge ordered all PCBs removed from two Malibu schools by 2019.

“The reports by Sen. Markey, EWG and America Unites for Kids confirm what I and many other parents around the country have worried and warned about for years,” said supermodel and spokesperson for the non-profit America Unites for Kids, Cindy Crawford, whose concerns prompted her to pull her two children from Malibu High School. “Millions of our students are likely spending significant hours each week inside classrooms that expose them to extremely toxic chemicals that could cause serious health problems for them,” Crawford said. “Unfortunately, as these findings show and by our own personal experience in Malibu, the government agencies have very little information or answers for parents and teachers. Schools and classrooms should be healthy places where our kids are safe and able to flourish, not environments that could put them at risk.”

Jennifer deNicola, president of America Unites for Kids, said Markey’s report should be a wake-up call to Congress, the EPA and parents nationwide.

“This is absolutely outrageous,” she said, “and no parent or educator should stand for it. Our government, which requires that children attend school, should also ensure they’re in schools and classrooms free from toxic chemicals like PCBs.”

Dr. Robert Herrick, primary author of the Harvard study, stated:

This data demonstrates that PCBs in schools are a national problem. And while the scope of the problem remains poorly characterized, it is clear that where people look for PCBs in schools, they are very likely to find them. The effect of these PCBs on the health of people in these buildings has never been studied, but given the evidence that PCBs cause cancer, and reproductive and developmental problems, it is essential that this source of PCB exposure be eliminated from our schools.

To read Senator Markey full report go to:

http://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2016-10-05-Markey-PCB-Report-ABCsofPCBs.pdf

Poison lurking in schools

Poison lurking in schools

Listen to Story here: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/poison-lurking-in-schools/

Across the country, tens of thousands of public schools could be contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls – compounds more commonly known as PCBs, which were used widely in building materials such as window caulk. PCBs have been linked to everything from skin conditions to cancer. On this hour of Reveal, we take a closer look at this sleeper chemical that was banned in 1979 but still poses a serious health risk to kids today.

No one knows how many schools have this ticking time bomb lurking in their windows, but reporter David DesRoches of WNPR in Connecticut starts us off with the story of a man who used to put PCBs in schools and now is working to get them out. People call him the “repentant caulker.” He secretly tests caulk in school windows to see if it contains dangerous PCBs. Not everyone’s happy with him: If PCBs are found, they have to be removed – and that could cost big money.

PCBs have shown up in schools built before 1979, including in affluent Malibu, California. Southern California Public Radio’s Stephanie O’Neill takes us to the front lines of the outrage. Parents who were worried that the school district wasn’t doing enough to protect kids and staff have taken the case to court. A teacher who calls herself “Cancer Patient No. 1” tells O’Neill her story.

So how did PCBs first find their way into the environment in the U.S.? DesRoches visits the small town of Anniston, Alabama. In 1929, the Swann Chemical Co. started making PCBs in a small factory there. In 1935, Swann was bought out by another chemical company. You might know it: Monsanto.

Today, we recognize Monsanto Co. as a global agricultural giant. Besides being a producer of herbicides such as Roundup, it’s at the forefront of biotechnology. But half a century ago, PCBs were Monsanto’s golden ticket – the company was the country’s sole manufacturer of the compound.

After millions of dollars were spent cleaning up the soil in Anniston, tests by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that PCB levels in the outdoor air haven’t changed at all in a decade. It’s this lasting Monsanto legacy that led Anniston residents to sue the company – and they won. The case was settled with a $600 million payout, but residents saw barely any of this money. Most got less than $7,000 each.

So why isn’t the EPA doing more to protect people from PCB exposure? Former employees say it’s because the agency has a history of making decisions that benefit industry. Considering that emerging science is showing that PCBs are more dangerous than we thought, this is a cause for concern.

UCLA STUDY FINDS HIGHER DISEASE RATES IN PCB CONTAMINATED MALIBU SCHOOLS

LOS ANGELES — A study conducted by Honor Collegium students at UCLA under the supervision of Alison Lipman, Ph.D. found a “higher than average persistence of PCB-related diseases in individuals working at” PCB contaminated public schools in Malibu. The study may be seen at

–The study found a significantly higher prevalence of thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease at the Malibu schools compared to rates in the United States.

–The study also found significantly higher rates of thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s disease, and fertility issues compared with a control population at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village.

“I am proud that these students conducted such a rigorous and well-researched study,” said Dr. Lipman. “I hope their work will be built upon in Malibu, and across the U.S. to protect teachers and students that are in PCB contaminated schools.”

Results

The binomial test found a significantly higher prevalence of thyroid cancer and Hashimoto’s disease at Malibu schools, compared to published background rates in the US. The study reported five cases of thyroid cancer at Malibu schools, compared to less than one case expected (p = 3.175 x 10-14), and eight cases of Hashimoto’s disease at Malibu schools, compared to less than one case expected (p = 1.34 x 10-12). No significantly enriched diseases were found at OCS.

The Fisher’s exact test comparing disease rates between Malibu schools and OCS found significant enrichment at the Malibu schools, in thyroid disease (16 incidences at Malibu compared to zero incidences at OCS) (p = 2.110 x 10-4), Hashimoto’s disease (eight incidences at Malibu
compared to zero at OCS) (p = 0.0216), and fertility issues (seven incidences at Malibu compared to zero at OCS) (p = 0.0362); while thyroid cancer (five incidences at Malibu compared to zero at OCS) (p = 0.0983) showed marginal significance. No significance was found when comparing building location or length of exposure with disease occurrence.

Methods

The study tested whether the detected occurrence of PCBs at Malibu schools correlate with increased incidences of PCB-related diseases, and thus are putatively causing diseases in staff members working at the schools. It tested the hypothesis that there would be a higher than average persistence of PCB-related diseases in individuals working at these schools.

The study analyzed enrichments in the incidence of PCB-related diseases in staff members at the Malibu schools. In order to test our hypothesis, teachers at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, Malibu Middle School and Malibu High School were administered an online survey (n =
146). The survey collected information on the prevalence and severity of PCB-related diseases, along with work hours, and work-site specific information, such as buildings that the teachers work in. In order to draw a comparison, teachers at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, built after the PCB ban, were administered the same survey as a negative control (n= 195). The study used binomial tests to assess increased prevalence of PCB-related diseases at the Malibu schools and Oaks Christian from responses (nMalibu= 41; nOaks= 23).  Then a Fisher’s exact test was used to identify enrichment in disease prevalence in Malibu schools compared to Oaks Christian disease rates.

Furthermore, calculated was the chance of having a PCB-related disease due to working in buildings with high levels of PCBs using odds ratio. Finally, a Fisher’s exact test was conducted to assess the relationship between exposure time and disease status.

Background

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are carcinogenic pollutants that have been banned nationally and have been found in state governed Malibu public schools Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Malibu Middle, and Malibu High School. Exposure to PCBs increases the risk of heart disease, thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s disease, and several forms of cancer.

The Malibu community became especially concerned about PCB exposure at its public schools after three teachers were diagnosed with thyroid cancer within months of each other in 2013. Since then, and outside of this study, approximately 50 illnesses have been reported by students,
teachers and alumni as potentially being linked to PCBs.

Subsequent testing in 2015 revealed classroom building materials within the campuses of Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Middle School with levels of PCBs thousands of times greater than the 50 parts per million threshold set by federal law. One sample tested at 570,000 parts per million, believed to be the highest ever found in an American school.

Controversially, the school district chose to halt testing and not pursue a PCB removal strategy, leading to federal litigation for an injunction to remove PCBs in compliance with Federal law and
continuing significant concern among parents, teachers, and students.

Research conducted by Dr. Robert F. Herrick at Harvard’s School of Public Health has found PCB contamination to be widespread in American schools, with up to 25,000 campuses affected and 20 million people exposed each school day.

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SANTA MONICA-MALIBU UNIFIED SPENDING TO AVOID PCB REMOVAL BREAKS $10 MILLION MARK; PARENTS TO DEMAND INVESTIGATION INTO MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS AND SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT’S CONNECTION

SANTA MONICA-MALIBU UNIFIED SPENDING TO AVOID PCB REMOVAL BREAKS $10 MILLION MARK; PARENTS TO DEMAND INVESTIGATION INTO MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS AND SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT’S CONNECTION

Pillsbury Legal Bills Reach $3.38 Million after another $500K Approved at March 3rd, 2016 Board

March 17th Agenda shows $500k more which Superintendent claims may be a mistake but has not removed it from the agenda.

MALIBU — Local parents and taxpayers are outraged that the school district has now spent more than $10 million to avoid removing hazardous waste, known as PCBs, from its schools; this includes a whopping $3.38 million spent on the law firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman in only 2 years.  The estimated cost of removing the PCBs is far less than those legal bills alone. Parents and taxpayers have raised questions about why a school district would spend 10 times more to force kids in classrooms with known toxic hazardous waste. New information expands this questioning into the law firm’s selection, spending and strategy, the propriety of the School Board President’s involvement in PCB-related votes, and the firm’s connections to Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of PCBs.

PCBs and Monsanto are in the news right now due to an ongoing a Los Angeles Superior Court trial where plaintiffs allege cancer as a result of PCB exposure. In addition, there is legislation pending, H.R.2576, to amend the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act in a manner that The New York Times reports may give Monsanto a ‘get out of jail free card’ relating to its PCB liability. Harvard researchers estimate that up to 20 million children nationally may be exposed to PCBs in their schools, making the Malibu case of broad importance.

March 17, 2016: SMMUSD AGENDA LINK: http://www.smmusd.org/brd1516/agn031716.pdf

Pillsbury is leading the fight on behalf of SMMUSD against parents and teachers who filed a citizen’s suit eleven months ago that does not seek any monetary damages, only an order from a Federal judge to remove illegal and hazardous PCBs from Malibu public schools. Removal is estimated to cost $750,000 to $1.5 million, and parents are shocked that Pillsbury’s legal fees alone far exceed this amount.

When consultant costs are factored in, the Pillsbury-led strategy to prevent identification and removal of PCBs has cost taxpayers more than $10 million, an amount that will continue to rise if the board keeps approving Superintendent Lyon’s spending requests — last week, the board approved an additional $500,000 for PIllsbury.

While public school districts routinely engage in sophisticated and competitive bidding processes for things like books and landscaping services, Pillsbury was hired to perform millions of dollars of legal work based on the recommendation of School Board President Laurie Lieberman through her husband’s law partner, Tom Larmore. Before becoming a law partner with Lieberman’s husband, Larmore was a partner at Pillsbury.

In response to a public records request, Gail Pinsker, SMMUSD’s public relations officer wrote, “In the case of Pillsbury, I am able to confirm that Tom Larmore, who is very involved on the district’s Financial Oversight Committee on which he has served for years, originally referred us to the Pillsbury firm, where he had been previously employed.”

Larmore currently sits on the district’s financial oversight committee and is representing Santa Monica on the committee to create a separate Malibu school district. In 2014, when Ben Allen was elected to the CA State Senate and his board seat was vacated, Larmore asked to be appointed to the board. The only vote Larmore received from the remaining six board members was from Laurie Lieberman.

The connections between Pillsbury, Larmore and Lieberman were not disclosed to the public in advance of the firm’s hiring. Also not disclosed to the public was the fact that Pillsbury represented a Monsanto spin-off (Solutia) in a bankruptcy case from 2003-2008. Monsanto was the only U.S. manufacturer of PCBs, and Solutia was
formed through a divesture of its chemical business . Over the past two years, numerous legal teams approached SMMUSD suggesting, at no charge to the district, to file a case against Monsanto and Solutia to pay for PCB removal, as many other school districts have done. Pillsbury recommended against it.

PCBs are dangerous to Children and Teachers:
International PCB expert David O. Carpenter, M.D., spoke to the Malibu community for several hours last week at Pepperdine University about the dangers of PCBs.

“What we need to do is get the PCBs out,” Carpenter said. “When I get asked what level of PCBs are safe, I say, ‘zero molecules.’ Any molecule is harmful. The more you have, the more harm.”

SMMUSD sent statements to the press trying to discredit Dr. Carpenter as being a biased expert witness for the plaintiffs, despite his extensive resume and recognition by other world experts. In fact, Pillsbury trusted the expertise of Dr. Carpenter when they retained him as an expert witness for them in 2006 when they represented shareholders of the Monsanto spin-off, Solutia, in a PCB liability case – underscoring the fact that Dr. Carpenter is undoubtedly one of the nation’s preeminent PCB researchers and not a biased expert regarding PCBs’ dangers. 

IARC 26 Experts on PCBs:
http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol107/mono107-F05.pdf

The plaintiffs in this case, America Unites for Kids, have confirmed that Dr. Carpenter is providing his expertise pro-bono. According to Dr. Carpenter, he has never profited from working on legal cases — he said he feels it is his obligation as a scientist to work to protect public health and any money received is donated to the University of Albany’s research institute including those monies paid to him by Pillsbury.

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For more information:
See Pillsbury’s own website where it touts its work on behalf of polluters:
http://www.pillsburylaw.com/environmental-litigation

New York Times story on Toxic Substances Control Act legislation:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/business/monsanto-could-benefit-from-a-chemical-safety-bill.html?ref=topics&_r=1

Story on LA Superior Court trial regarding Monsanto and PCBs:
http://patch.com/california/malibu/s/fnbgr/cancer-patients-take-on-chemical-giant-behind-one-of-regions-most-notorious-pollutants?utm_source=newsletter-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=health%20%26%20fitness&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=article-topstories

Dr. David Carpenter’s Presentation at Pepperdine University’s Law School
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v�d9Y1sIEUU

H.R.2576 TSCA Modernization Act 2015 text
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2576/text/ih

SMMUSD’s Latest Approval of $500,000 for Pillsbury
http://www.smmusd.org/brd1516/agn031716.pdf

Text of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Letter to the New York Times:

To the Editor:

You reported a scheme by Congressional Republicans to include in
legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act a provision that
could immunize Monsanto from damages caused by polychlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs. Monsanto was the exclusive American manufacturer
of PCBs, which are potent endocrine disrupters and carcinogens.

Thousands of American schools built between 1950 and 1979 contain hazardous concentrations of PCBs in their window caulking and lighting fixtures, endangering millions of children. Internal company documents show that Monsanto aggressively marketed this product to schools knowing that it was extremely toxic and would ultimately be prohibited by law. The mitigation costs could run from approximately $1 million to $3 million per building. Congress now seeks to shift these costs to school districts and to abolish Monsanto’s liability for more than 80,000 miles of PCB-contaminated streams and rivers.

Congress should be fighting for the health and environmental interest
of Americans and their children instead of safeguarding the ill-gotten
profits of one multinational corporation.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr.
President, Waterkeeper Alliance

New York

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A Fight Over PCBs in Malibu

A Fight Over PCBs in Malibu

Parents of students in Malibu are suing the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, saying that schools like Malibu High are too dangerous for their kids. The parents are protesting the presence of PCBs, a substance that was widely used in construction materials before 1980. PCBs are banned today, but two older Malibu schools have elevated levels of PCBs in their buildings’ window caulking. The school district and the Environmental Protection Agency have said that the schools are safe, but parents and some experts disagree. We look for clarity with an expert.

Guests:
Robert Herrick, Harvard School of Public Health

Click Here to Hear Radio Show

Scientist explains various health effects of PCB exposure

Scientist explains various health effects of PCB exposure
Alex Vejar, Assistant Editor
Malibu Surfside News
10:55 am PST March 8, 2016

 

A scientist with an extensive background in research regarding polychlorinated biphenyls lectured to a room full of Malibu residents, parents, teachers and officials, explaining in detail the health effects of exposure to the chemical.

David Carpenter, a public health physician, stood at a podium in a classroom of Pepperdine University’s law school on March 1, presenting several slides detailing the chemical makeup of PCBs, how people can be exposed to them what ailments are correlated with exposure to the chemical.

Carpenter focused on the types of PCBs that have a lower number of chlorine atoms, as those types more easily dissolve in water, can be inhaled through the air and can be absorbed through the skin, he said.

“All of those are possible routes to exposure at Malibu schools” Carpenter said.

In his presentation, Carpenter described ailments connected with PCB exposure. An area of focus was the neurotoxic effects of PCBs, which Carpenter said included reduced IQ, shortened attention span, impulsive behavior, poor school performance and an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

He said those effects mirror those caused by exposure to lead, whose use was banned in paint in 1978.

“It’s quite remarkable that these chemicals [that are] very, very different — lead being a metal and PCBs being an organic chemical — they do almost exactly the same things, at least in terms of these effects,” Carpenter said.

When talking about cancer, Carpenter said most of the PCB research conducted most often points three types: melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer. Carpenter also pointed to research that suggests PCBs cause thyroid cancer.

Lisa Lambert, a sixth-grade physical education teacher at Malibu Middle School, spoke about her own thyroid cancer  and Hashimoto’s disease diagnoses and blamed PCBs for that ailment.

“This diagnosis follows years of exposure to high levels of PCBs in my workspace,” Lambert said.

In a response to a question from the audience, Carpenter said students would have been more exposed to PCBs 20 years ago than would be exposed now because the chemicals dissolve into the caulk. However, he said the caulk, which has been in place for 20 years, still contains a high concentration of PCBs. 

“This is not a new issue,” Carpenter said. “That doesn’t mean that now that we know about it, it shouldn’t be dealt with as an immediate issue.”

Carpenter said PCBs with low numbers of chlorine molecules don’t stay in one’s body for long, but added that prolonged exposure due to breathing poses a great risk.

“Nobody can stop breathing,” Carpenter said. “And so even though you can break them down rather rapidly, you’re continuously exposed.”

Carpenter said the use of PCBs in schools ranged from the chemicals being found in window caulking, paint and fluorescent light ballasts. He said all those situations pose a risk.

“What we need to do is get the PCBs out,” Carpenter said. “We need to find out where they’re coming from — whether it’s all from caulk, whether it’s from other sources, whether it’s from paint — and get them out because PCBs in the air are dangerous.”

One audience member, while fighting back tears, asked Carpenter if he would pull his child out of a school that contained PCBs. While Carpenter said that decision would have be made by each individual parent, he did provide an answer.

“If my kids were in those schools, I would be very torn,” Carpenter said.

Both Oscar de la Torre and Malibu resident Craig Foster, members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, attended the lecture and fielded questions from irate members of the audience who demanded an explanation as to why the Board would not fix the PCB problem.

“My position is very clear: I am not fighting the parents,” de la Torre said.

One member of the audience pressed Foster to explain what goes on during the Board’s closed sessions and why the Board “isn’t doing the right thing.”

“How do you explain the unexplainable?” Foster said.

But Foster quickly gave an answer to the audience member’s question.

“It’s like global warming,” Foster said. “Some people say, ‘Oh now, there’s no problem’ and some people say, ‘Yes, there’s a problem.’ The [School Board] members who support the policy, support the legal spending, support the cleaning regiment…believe the narrative that’s provided to them by Environ, that’s provided to them by Pillsbury.”

Foster said any time the issue of changing policies regarding PCB removal comes up with the entire Board, he and de la Torre vote to augment it, while the other five members do not. 

Carpenter made it clear that in this opinion, no concentration of PCBs, however minute, should be tolerated.

“PCBs at any concentration…have no beneficial effect,” Carpenter said. “When I get asked what level of PCBs are safe, I say, ‘zero molecules.’ Any molecule is harmful. The more you have, the more harm.”

http://www.malibusurfsidenews.com/school/scientist-explains-various-health-effects-pcb-exposure

Health Scare at Malibu School Sets Off Media War

Health Scare at Malibu School Sets Off Media War

MALIBU, Calif. — The high school here is ranked among the best in the country, with students each year moving on to Ivy League colleges. The location, on a hill down the block from the beach where “Baywatch” was filmed, offers a multimillion-dollar view of the Pacific Ocean.

Yet parents here have been yanking their children out of Malibu High School, concerned about PCBs, the highly toxic chemical compounds, that have been found in caulking of the school’s windows.

A battle over how to handle the PCBs, which were first discovered three years ago, is now convulsing this famously wealthy beach community, with parents, television stars and a supermodel pitted against one of the most elite public school districts in the country.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District insists that its classrooms are safe; the Environmental Protection Agency agrees.

But not all parents and teachers are convinced: They blame PCBs for an array of maladies, including migraines, thyroid cancer and common colds, and they have sued to compel the district to remove all contaminated caulking. A judge ruled last week that the lawsuit could move forward.

In the meantime, school board meetings have turned chaotic, with parents shouting down district officials and calling them liars.

“The school district is telling us our kids are safe, but that’s what they were telling parents in Flint, Mich.,” said Jennifer deNicola, a mother of an eighth grader and a 10th grader who has spearheaded the push to remove PCBs. “We know there’s a problem, and they refuse to acknowledge it.”

But school and health officials insist that simply because PCBs are in the building materials does not mean the students are at risk of exposure. The school district tests the air in classrooms — the primary medium through which children could be exposed — and cleans regularly to reduce dust from the caulking, school officials said.

“Just because something is present doesn’t mean it can cause harm,” said Doug Daugherty, a managing principal at Ramboll Environ, the environmental consulting firm the district has hired.

The district has already spent millions of dollars on lawyers, environmental consultants and a public-relations campaign.

But, this being Malibu, parents have waged their own media campaign, complete with environmental experts and celebrity advocates. Cindy Crawford, the supermodel, has gone on national television to explain why she pulled her two children from Malibu High, and offered to pay to test caulking for PCBs throughout the campus, which also includes an elementary school and a middle school. (Her offer was declined.)

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were widely used in building materials and electronics until they were banned in the late 1970s, and they remain in many older buildings. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that the substances could be present in upward of 20,000 schools nationwide. The compounds have been linked to cancer, immune problems and lower I.Q.s among children.

Federal law requires that any building materials found to contain PCBs be removed. But to the chagrin of parents here, there was no requirement to test the caulking in the first place.

Photo

Jennifer deNicola, a mother of two who has spearheaded the push to have PCBs removed, with her daughter Sami, 13, whom she is now home-schooling. CreditMonica Almeida/The New York Times 

The E.P.A. has endorsed the district’s approach to handling the PCBs in its buildings. And scientists who studied PCBs in New York City schools said this method — of testing air quality and cleaning assiduously — was very effective.

Laurie Lieberman, the president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board, said the administration had confidence in the safety of its facilities and has been doing its best to reassure parents.

“We have tremendous empathy for people who are fearful and scared,” Ms. Lieberman said. “We’ve really tried to explain why the schools are safe now.”

Malibu parents have a history of skepticism about official health advice, including routine childhood vaccinations: At some local elementary schools in 2014, fewer than 60 percent of kindergarten students had received the full lineup of recommended vaccines, far below the state average.

In this case, the distrust on both sides became plain last fall, when supporters of caulking removal secretly took their own samples from classrooms and had them independently tested. Ms. deNicola announced that the results showed extraordinarily high levels of PCBs. The school district asked the sheriff’s office to investigate her for trespassing and vandalism.

The battle now threatens to tear apart the school district: Concern over PCBs has fueled an existing effort here to break away from Santa Monica so that Malibu can be in control of its own schools.

Beth Lucas, a parent, pulled her son, Christian, out of Malibu High after their endocrinologist said it was especially dangerous for him to remain there. Christian, now 17, had a malignant brain tumor at age 6, and the radiation used to treat it left him with a diminished immune system and thus more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs, the doctor told the family.

“We moved to Malibu for the schools, so it has been a big slap in the face to have the school district treat the parents and teachers and children so poorly,” Ms. Lucas said. She is also considering removing her daughter, who is in middle school, at the end of the year, but worried about the cost of private school.

“Yes, we live in this nice house,” she said, sitting on a hilltop porch that overlooked a wide expanse of ocean. “I don’t want to have to sell my house and leave Malibu. The district has put us in a horrible position.”

Currently, only one of the seven school board members represents Malibu. He supports replacing the caulking, but has been voted down by board members who live in Santa Monica.

“I think the board members have convinced themselves that the science is right and the parents are overreacting,” said Craig Foster, Malibu’s representative on the school board, and the father of a seventh grader at the middle school here. “But what if in five years it turns out testing the air and dust wasn’t enough? How do you sleep?”

Some other school districts across the country have acted more aggressively, often at the E.P.A.’s behest, to remove the source of PCBs. Parents here point to Clark Elementary School in Hartford as an example of a school district that handled matters responsibly: In that case, an entire school building was closed — and may be abandoned — because of PCB contamination.

But testing at Clark Elementary indicated elevated levels of PCBs in the air, whereas testing at Malibu High has not, E.P.A. officials said.

Jim Jones, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A., said the agency worked with schools to “get below the risk threshold using the best management practices.”

“We’re always trying to find what’s a cheaper way,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the caulking at Malibu High would all be replaced within several years as part of planned renovations. For now, he said, cleaning and ventilation are “far less costly than removal.”

THIS PAST MONTH HAS BROUGHT MAJOR WINS AGAINST THE DISTRICT, NEXT STEP IS A WIN IN COURT ON MAY 17TH, 2016

We are being heard–loud and clear.

Despite the school district’s multi-million dollar legal and PR campaign, the federal court has decided that our lawsuit to remove PCBs from our schools — and set a national precedent on behalf of all American kids — warrants a full trial, which will begin in Downtown LA on May 17th, 2016!

The sanctions issue has also been resolved, with the court rejecting the school district’s attempt to personally collect tens-of-thousands of dollars from parents. Now that all of these distractions are behind us, we are looking straight ahead for a final win, getting kids and teachers out of toxic classrooms.

People across Southern California and across the country are now tuning in to our cause. Check out the front page story in the New York Times, the national broadcast on CBS This Morning, and hear the scientific facts from Harvard researchers on National Public Radio station KCRW.

The school district tried its best to convince the court that it’s “best management practices” scheme made a trial unnecessary and they had no violations of PCBs, and sought to have case dismissed.

But the court determined that “[T]he District’s own testing has shown PCBs in excess of 50 ppm in multiple rooms in six different buildings on the Malibu Campus, 70% of the rooms tested by the District contained PCBs in excess of 50 ppm, 28 out of 32 samples taken by the district contained PCBs above 50 ppm, with most above 100,000 ppm, many of the buildings on the Malibu Campus were built prior to 1979, and caulk and other materials containing PCBs were used in schools built from the 1950s through the 1970s.”

The court concluded and found in our favor that: “In reviewing the admissible evidence, and drawing reasonable inferences from that evidence, the Court concludes that triable issues of fact exist concerning the continued ‘use’ of PCBs at the Malibu Campus despite the remediation work performed to date by the District.”

Based on nine declarations from teachers and custodians the Judge found that, “The Court additionally concludes that evidence suggesting that the District has failed to implement and consistently employ BMPs as contemplated by the EPA’s approvals calls into question the amount of deference the Court should give to the District’s purported compliance with the EPA’s guidelines and approvals. For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court denies Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.”

The May 17 trial marks a critical moment in our fight for our kids. We need parents, teachers and students to turn out on the courthouse steps and in the courtroom to show the world and the Judge that we aren’t going to stand idly by while our kids’ classrooms are contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. Join us and stand up for our kids! RSVP here.

It’s a profound teachable moment for our students–it’s a real life civics lesson that shows speaking truth to power truly can make a difference. See you there, and remember, our suit seeks no monetary damages — only that the PCBs are promplty removed from our schools.

Thank you for all of your support.

Jennifer deNicola and the America Unites for Kids Team

PARENTS VINDICATED FROM DISTRICT’S FALSE CLAIMS OF VANDALISM:

PARENTS VINDICATED FROM DISTRICT’S FALSE CLAIMS OF VANDALISM:

For Immediate Release:

Contact America Unites for Kids: 310-436-6000

Thursday, December 17, 2015

 

PARENTS VINDICATED FROM DISTRICT’S FALSE CLAIMS:

District Attorney Determines No Crime in Sampling Toxic Caulk

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s latest attempt to intimidate their critics and suppress evidence of widespread PCB contamination at Malibu schools failed when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office rejected SMMUSD’s criminal complaint against parents who allegedly took small samples of building materials to test for toxic chemicals to protect their children.

A November 25, 2015 letter from L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated the office has formally declined to file charges. A follow-up email from the D.A.’s office clarified that no evidence of vandalism had been found on the campus of either Juan Cabrillo Elementary School or Malibu High (Malibu Schools). The D.A.’s email recognized that taking samples was merely “attempting to determine how many PCBs were in the molding” and not an intent to destroy. The email also stated the extent of damage did not appear to meet the required $400 threshold for a felony charge,  directly conflicting with the district’s claims of tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

“Despite the district’s best attempt to cause harm to me and the organization, truth and justice prevailed,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids, who was named in the investigation. “The district’s actions were malicious from the start as they knew that no vandalism had occurred. For ten days before contacting the police, Lyon, Lieberman, Maez and the Pillsbury lawyers orchestrated a legal strategy to attempt to suppress new evidence of PCB contamination from the Federal Court. These 31 new tests prove the district is in clear violation of Federal law and more importantly putting kids at risk. This latest act by the district –knowingly filing a false police report to put innocent people in jail– in addition to the $7 million they have spent remind us all how far they are willing to go to continue to hide the widespread PCB contamination from parents and teachers.”

On October 28th, 2015, district officials filed a complaint to the Lost Hills Sheriff Department that parents had committed trespassing and vandalism when allegedly taking samples of 62-year old caulking—samples the size of toothpicks–presumed and then confirmed to contain toxic PCBs in violation of Federal law. Based on documents recently filed in Federal court, the district waited to report this purported crime of vandalism for ten days and only after the district’s law firm, Pillsbury, interviewed teachers themselves, a practice that can influence a witness. The District initially reported “damages” in the amount of $1500, but then continued to press the Sherriff and steadily increased the amount to more than $100,000, raising this issue into the category of a serious felony, yet the Los Angeles District Attorney’s email stated they could not substantiate even $400.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a Class I carcinogen used in school building materials between 1950 and 1979 and initially found at the Malibu Schools in 2009. They were banned by Congress in 1976 because of their substantial risk to human health. Since 2004, 180 Countries have ratified the Stockholm Convention to eliminate PCBs from use. PCBs have been associated with a long list of human ailments and are especially harmful to children, including cancer, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, autism, lower IQ and disruption of the neurological, endocrine, reproductive and immune systems. MHS and JCES together have reports of six teachers with thyroid cancer and 25 teachers with thyroid disease.

In March 2015, America Unites for Kids and PEER filed legal action against SMMUSD for violation of the Toxic Substance Control Act which requires all building materials with PCBs in excess of 50 parts per million to be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste. Last month, America Unites provided U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) with 31 more PCB results from Malibu schools showing violations of Federal law. Trial is set for May 17, 2016.

America Unites for Kids is a 501c(3) non-profit dedicated to protecting the health of children. The non-profit is advised by experts, university scientists and policy makers with specific expertise in PCBs. The issue of dangerous and illegal levels of PCBs in public schools has become the nonprofit’s centerpiece issue rising out of its own struggle getting PCBs removed from its local schools.

“This latest action by the school district and their corporate lawyers aims to intimidate parents on a national level and silence concerns that their own kids might be sitting in toxic classrooms. But like the story of David and Goliath, Goliath has failed,” said deNicola. “Parents who seek the truth to protect their children should never be threatened or intimidated by a school district. The reality is everyday there are millions of children and teachers unknowingly sitting in PCB-contaminated classrooms who also need to be protected. We hope to bring awareness to parents so they can actively protect their kids from these cancer-causing chemicals that Congress deemed so harmful, they completely banned them 40 years ago.”

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See Denial Letter from Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office

http://malibuunites.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/DeNicola-Reject-Letter.pdf

See Details of Denial in Email from District Attorney

http://malibuunites.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/letter-from-DA-vandelism-for-AU-website.pdf

December 2015 Update: Number of Teachers and Students Illnesses at Malibu Schools

http://malibuunites.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/DECEMBER-2015-Illness-UPDATE.pdf