The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking school administrators to review their school lighting systems and replace older components to reduce the threat of contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Many schools built before 1979 use light fixtures that contain PCBs. The chemicals were frequently used in systems created at that time because they do not readily burn or conduct electricity. But in 1979, the chemicals wee banned when studies found that they can affect the immune and reproductive systems and potentially cause cancer if they build up in the body.

The EPA has released a guidance document recommending that schools replace the electrical components in pre-1979 light fixtures to prevent the escape of PCBs into the air. Even if they are intact (not leaking), it's only a matter of time before they begin to leak. That's why the EPA is suggesting that schools simply remove the old lights to prevent the problem.  

If the light fixtures are already leaking, federal law requires that schools remove them immediately.

The EPA's recommendations come on the heels of a study of three schools in New York City that revealed that many fixtures in the schools were leaking PCBs and contributing to increased levels of the chemicals in the air.

Worried about the PCBs in your child's school? Bring it up at the next PTA meeting or make an appointment to ask your school administrators if they have a plan in place to address this issue.

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