EPA inspections fail to shed new light on health PCBs do not pose threat

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Parental fears over trace levels of PCBs in New York public schools made the front page of The New York Times today. News of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) leaking from old light fixtures spread quickly after a pilot study conducted by the EPA last year found that PCB levels in the air in three public schools exceeded federal health limits. Meanwhile, as the EPA pushes for the installation of new light fixtures in all of the city’s public schools, Mayor Bloomberg is disputing the urgency of replacing them, citing the estimated $1 billion cost and the fact that there is no immediate health risk. The EPA decided it couldn’t wait until the summer for further tests and began conducting its own inspections last month.

“The EPA is once again trying to expand their authority to the public health arena,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “This reminds me of the great asbestos panic of the mid-80s, which we now know caused more problems — by removing stable asbestos from schools — than it solved. Our evaluation of PCBs showed that it is not a carcinogen at such trace levels.”