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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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.”

SMMUSD’s Calamity of Errors Validates Plaintiff’s PCB Lawsuit

Defendant’s Calamity of Errors Validates Plaintiff’s PCB Lawsuit

SMMUSD remediates wrong classroom but finds 100 times higher than legal limit

New evidence indicates that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District failed to remediate the Malibu High School PE office that tested positive for high levels of PCB contamination in 2014 and mistakenly tested and remediated a completely different office on the opposite side of the building, which incidentally also contained high levels of PCBs.

The PE office that has still not been remediated is located on the South side of the old gym near the outdoor basketball courts and was independently tested in 2014 and found to have PCB levels four times above legal limit. In March 2015, SMMUSD contractors were tasked with retesting all areas that were previously independently tested. After careful examination of their data, the wrong room was tested. Instead, the district’s contractors tested an unused office on the North side of the building, which also proved to have high levels of PCBs. The district then remediated this unused office during the summer of 2015.

The unremediated, contaminated office is used daily by Malibu High School PE faculty, including one of the three original teachers diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Today, a total of five teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, while 14 of 30 middle school teachers, almost 50%, have reported thyroid disease.

In November of 2013, dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls—PCBs, a group of highly toxic chemicals that are documented to be carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, were identified at Malibu High School.

This all unfolded last week when teachers questioned Carry Upton, SMMUSD’s Director, Theater Operations & Facility Permits about his confidence that all PCBs over 50 ppm were removed. According to Carey he was confident they were. Yet when one of the teachers told him that the wrong office was remediated, they claim he looked dumbfounded.

The office that was overlooked by the district’s contractors appears on America Unites’ map of MHS contamination marked in orange, with the notation: 190 ppm.  The map also clearly shows a red star that indicates that a MHS faculty member associated with that specific location has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The empty room the district remediated instead has no special designation on the map.

America Unites for Kids and PEER, two environmental advocacy organizations who have filed a citizen’s suit under the Toxic Substances Control Act against the district for the removal of PCBs over 50 ppm, claim the error, and the subsequent findings that the unoccupied room which was tested by mistake also contained high levels PCBs adds new urgency to America Unites’ call for additional testing and remediation.

“In the district’s calamity of errors, they have proven our legal position for us: like-caulking in the same building will also have high levels of PCBs and therefore all like-caulking in the building is in violation of Federal law and must be removed,” said Attorney Charles Avrith of Naglar & Associates who is representing America Unites for Kids and PEER in a Federal lawsuit filed against SMMUSD under the Toxic Substances Control Act for illegal use of PCBs. “Contrary to what the District contends, there is no standard practice that every inch of caulk needs to be tested or verified by the district to be an illegal use. A standard like that would be unreasonable.”

SMMUSD tested the soil for PCBs and other chemicals in both 2009 and again in 2014 under supervision from the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substance Control and used a representative sampling plan to determine the extent of PCB contamination that required removal. When the district tested for PCBs at Santa Monica High School and Olympic High School in the spring of 2015, they also used a representative sampling plan to determine the PCB content of different building materials, according to the District’s “Final Olympic PCB Inspection Report” found on their website,

“In general, Ramboll Environ considered materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture as homogeneous.”

This same representative sampling technique used at the Santa Monica High Schools is what America Unites for Kids and PEER have been advocating for over the past two years. They claim based on the caulk testing they and the district have done to date, all materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture also have illegal levels of PCBs and require removal under Federal law. This matter is currently playing out in Federal Court and is set to go to trial May 17th, 2016. This case can set precedent to properly identify and remove illegal and unsafe PCBs from all schools.

incorrect PE rooms remediated

Recently Released EPA Document shows SMMUSD is Defying PCB Policy and Federal Law

According to EPA’s most recent document on PCB policy, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is not following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance or law regarding PCBs at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, contrary to its August 17th, 2015 press release, where SMMUSD claims it is in compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and following EPA guidance by only testing the air and dust but refusing to test any more caulk.
However, an EPA document released on Aug 24, 2015 named “How to Test for PCBs and Characterize Suspect Materials”  confirms that a full investigation of the materials is required once a PCB problem–PCBs over the legal limit–like the one found in Malibu is identified.
“If you have identified a PCB problem, you will need to characterize it and determine the extent of PCB contamination. It is important to note that even if PCBs are not present in the air, they still may be present in building materials.”
This exact statement has been the mantra of the Malibu community for almost two years. The EPA document clearly outlines this,
“A sampling plan should be developed to characterize the caulk and other potential building materials that might either contain PCBs or be contaminated through contact with PCB-containing caulk such as wood, masonry, or brick.”
SMMUSD has refused to perform these steps, despite the long-standing community outcry for comprehensive caulk testing and PCB removal. SMMUSD’s refusal to test has been previously referred to as a “don’t test, don’t know” PCB-policy to avoid complying with the law.

“This EPA document validates everything America Unites for Kids, on behalf of Malibu, has been asking SMMUSD to do for two years,” said Jennifer deNicola, president of the Malibu-based environmental advocacy organization America Unites for Kids.

“The district has shown it will spare no expense to avoid characterizing the extent of the PCB-contamination. While the district continues to false use the EPA for cover, everyone really needs to understand not testing is a choice made by Superintendent Lyon and she has spent a lot of public money defending that choice.”

A letter from EPA region 9 on April 17th, 2015 to America Unites for Kids says, “nothing limits the District’s ability to perform additional caulk sampling or removal.”

According to deNicola, the EPA document the district refers to in their August 17th press release is intended to provide guidance only for schools that have never tested for PCBs and do not know if there are PCBs, not for sites, like Malibu, where there is already verified PCB contamination in the caulking in violation of Federal law.

“We are way past wondering if Malibu has toxic PCBs,” deNicola said. “We know Malibu has a significant PCB problem. This document directs the district to determine how wide-spread the PCB contamination goes and remove all PCBs in violation of current law. We keep asking ourselves, why would a school district claiming to be strapped for cash, spend six times what it would cost solve the problem.”

PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that were used to make a wide range of construction materials and electrical components before being banned by Congress in 1976. The law states the PCBs are an unauthorized use and EPA regulations state,

“PCB Items with PCB concentrations of 50 ppm of greater present an unreasonable risk to injury to health”
PCBs have been found by EPA and international agencies to be highly toxic, persistent organic pollutants known to cause cancer and a host of other serious illnesses which include those reported at Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo by teachers and alumni.

Beginning almost two years ago, testing has shown that 18 classrooms in eight buildings at Malibu High School and adjacent Juan Cabrillo Elementary School are plagued with high levels of PCBs. In some instances, the levels were 11,000 times higher than Federal TSCA law allows and the highest levels ever identified in a public school.

It has been reported that five teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, 14 of 30 middle school teachers, almost 50%, have thyroid disease, and at least a dozen alumni between the ages of 20-28 have reported thyroid cancer, thyroid disease or melanoma. A formal health study has not been organized to be sent to Alumni, teachers or current students.

America Unites for Kids along with PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, have filed a Citizen’s suit under TSCA requesting that SMMUSD comply with Federal law by removing all PCBs above federal limits at the Malibu Schools. In June, the plaintiffs succeeded in defeating the defendant’s motion to dismiss. This case is scheduled for trial in Los Angeles Federal Court on May 17th, 2016 and discovery is now ongoing.

Malibu Real Estate Warns Buyers of PCB Contamination in Schools

PCB contamination at Malibu schools is now part of the Malibu Association of Realtors newest disclosure requirements.The latest version of the Malibu-Topanga Disclosure Addendum, which went into effect on Sept. 2, 2015, is intended to let prospective buyers know about local issues. This disclosure reads:

Some Malibu Schools (Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Malibu Middle School, and Malibu High School) have been determined to contain Polychlorinated biphenyl (“PCB”), a known carcinogen, in caulking and other building materials. Environmental assessments are ongoing. Buyer is encouraged to investigate and determine whether he considers the use of said materials a potential health hazard prior to close of escrow.”

Given the undisputed toxic hazards of PCBs to children’s health, this addendum makes it evident that PCBs also have the potential to affect other aspects of the community, including real estate.

The Malibu school contamination issue has plagued the Malibu community since October 2013, when dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were uncovered at the three Malibu public schools. Two years later, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officials have spent a reported $6.5 million on legal fees and consultants rather than the estimated $600,000-$800,000 it would have cost to remove all the caulking, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the grassroots Malibu-based environmental watchdog organization America Unites for Kids.

America Unites President Jennifer deNicola says, “This addendum has become necessary because for two years, SMMUSD has acted irresponsibly. The PCB issue could still be quickly and completely resolved if the SMMUSD would commit to a program of testing and proper removal.”

The battle over testing and remediation has caused dozens of Malibu families to choose alternative schooling options for their children rather than risk exposure to a toxin known to cause cancer and other serious health issues. Since 2013, it has been reported that five teachers and three alumni from these Malibu Schools have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 14 teachers and six alumni have thyroid disease. This summer, four more teachers reported being diagnosed with thyroid issues, including potentially cancerous nodules.

“SMMUSD’s continued refusal to test the caulking in all classrooms is really an admission of guilt,” deNicola said. “District officials know that testing will reveal high levels of PCBs, requiring removal. But most importantly, PCBs are a clear and dangerous threat to human health. By deliberately avoiding this testing, the district is willfully endangering children and teachers.”