A little less than a week after addressing a rally over toxins in school buildings, former supermodel Cindy Crawford has pulled both of her children out of Malibu High School citing concerns for their health. The district, located north of Los Angeles, has been working to remediate high levels of pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil around buildings since their discovery in 2010. Unfortunately, the district did not disclose this issue to parents until nearly three years later, and then only after several teachers came forward with health concerns.
"I look 10 years down the line. What if my kid, God forbid, had a problem?" Crawford told Maria Shriver on the "Today" show Tuesday. "How could I live with myself, if I knew that it was a possibility, and I still sent them to school there?"
Crawford's concerns come as school administrators, after a series of surface wipe and air tests, recently declared the school safe; this despite a July 7 independent testing that found samples of contaminated caulking and PCBs at levels thousands of times higher than legal limits. Exposure to PCBs at these levels can reportedly cause cancer and damage immune and reproductive systems.
Even more troubling is the district's decision to leave the contaminated caulk in place for as long as 15 years. According to the report, one classroom at Malibu's Juan Cabrillo Elementary School had caulk containing 340,000 parts-per-million PCBs. The legal limit triggering removal is 50 ppm, according to Kirsten Stade
of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
"I think that air testing and wipe testings are a great piece of the puzzle," Crawford said. "Unless they're testing every day, how do I know that every day it's safe for my kid?"
Distrust over the districts' handling of the issue has led parents to form Malibu Unites. In a blog post last month
, the group slammed school officials for failing to properly test the caulk in all classrooms.
"The district has spent about a million dollars on lawyers rather than $100 per caulk test on approx. 150 classrooms and offices throughout the 3 campuses (including bathrooms and storage rooms)," they write. "If four tests were done in each room it would only cost $60,000. Then we would know where the sources of PCBs are and we could discuss the best way to remediate, remove or rebuild. Until this source testing is done, we cannot ever be assured our children are not being unnecessarily exposed to toxic PCBs. Testing the caulking could trigger further TSCA violations and we believe that is the reason the district is avoiding caulk testing."
At a rally last week, Crawford revealed that she and her husband offered to pay for the PCB testing, an offer that was later turned down by school officials.
"Without confirming where the PCBs are, we cannot ensure our children are not being exposed," Crawford said at the rally.
The issue in Malibu unfortunately is not unique. Many schools throughout the U.S. built between the early 1960s and late '70s have been found to have elevated levels of PCBs
. Crawford is hopeful that her fight to raise awareness locally will help spark a national movement to address the health issue.
"This is not a Malibu issue," she said. "This is really an issue in a lot of older schools, and I just think the laws need to be changed."
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