PCBs and schools: A new health scare

Related articles

As ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan was exposing the health hoaxes of last year, the EPA chose to end the year by initiating a campaign calling for schools across the country to replace old light fixtures containing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Might this be another health scare based on faulty science?

Among those who promptly questioned the practicality of the non-binding proposal were New York City officials. Responding to the EPA, a city Deputy Mayor offered estimates that removing PCBs from city buildings would cost $1 billion.

Dr. Whelan recalls that some years ago the EPA pushed for removal of PCBs from the bottom of the Hudson River even though cancer specialists acknowledged that there were no data to support the idea that this would be beneficial.

It is not clear how leaks from old light fixtures might expose students to extremely high doses of PCBs such as might pose cancer risks. Dr. Whelan comments: “These latest EPA recommendations are reminiscent of the public health scare we saw a generation ago over asbestos in schools. Its removal was hugely expensive, but from the point of view of public health it accomplished exactly nothing.”

ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross goes further, saying, “Asbestos removal probably actually created a health risk for the workers who removed it and to the school children during its removal. This may be a similar situation.”