Routes and Risks of Exposure to PCBs in Schools

Use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a PCB Lawsuit Claim.

Contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

PCBs in Schools: An Overview of PCBs in School Buildings and Why They Were Used

On this page, we’ll discuss the presence of PCBs in Schools, building materials and electrical equipment that contained PCBs, how students and faculty may be exposed to PCBs, potential health effects, and much more.

What are Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Why are they Dangerous?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) once changed the world.

Used in all types of electrical devices and industrial equipment, PCBs were implemented as hydraulic fluids, heat transfer liquids, and were used broadly to keep potentially flammable devices and products from catching fire.

PCBs helped in the widespread electrification of the United States, finding uses in electrical transformers, telephone poles, lighting fixtures, and even commercial products from the 1930s until the late 1970s, when they were banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Due to their versatility, durability, fire-resistance, and insulation properties, PCBs found obvious use in the construction materials and lighting fixtures of schools across the country.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination

During the height of PCB production, approximately 55,000 school buildings were constructed in the United States.

According to a 2016 study, over 26,000 schools may contain PCB hazards.

Several scientific studies have shown that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) pose a significant threat to human health and the environment.

PCB usage in school buildings poses substantial health risks to the vulnerable population of students, teachers, and staff.

Recent scientific studies have revealed potential airborne exposure concerns in school buildings constructed before PCBs were banned.

Exposure to PCBs can lead to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive disorders, and immune system damage. 

If you or a loved one were exposed to PCBs in schools and suffered health problems, you may be eligible to take legal action.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify instantly.

Our law firm is currently investigating the use of materials and electrical equipment containing PCBs in schools, particularly in the St. Louis area.

Reach out to us if you have any questions about polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), exposure to PCBs, PCB Lawsuit claims, and more.

Table of Contents

An Overview of PCB Contamination in School Buildings

Schools constructed between the 1950s and late 1970s are particularly at risk for PCB contamination, with an estimated one-third of the nation’s 130,000 school buildings potentially containing PCBs not just in caulking but also in light fixtures, ceiling tiles, and other building materials.

PCBs’ persistence in older buildings poses a daunting challenge for school districts, especially those with limited resources, who must navigate the complexities of identifying, managing, and eliminating these toxic substances.

The discovery of PCBs often occurs unexpectedly, typically during renovation projects, and can lead to multimillion-dollar lawsuits, significant health risks, and logistical nightmares in managing the contamination.

For example, the Clark School in Hartford, Connecticut was closed due to toxic levels of PCBs discovered during a sprinkler installation.

The lack of widespread awareness and political will to address PCB contamination in schools means that many districts are unprepared or hesitant to undertake the necessary testing and remediation efforts.

This reluctance is compounded by the fear of public backlash and the high costs associated with proper remediation.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination; An Overview Of PCB Contamination In School Buildings

The challenges faced by schools like Burlington High School in Vermont, which had to relocate to a temporary facility due to PCB contamination, underscore the financial and logistical difficulties in managing such crises, especially in states with limited funding for school facilities.

Burlington High School sued Monsanto over PCB contamination in December 2022.

The journey to PCB-free schools is a complex and costly one, with far-reaching implications for the health and safety of students and staff, as well as for the broader educational environment.

As awareness grows and more schools confront the reality of PCB contamination, the pressure mounts for comprehensive solutions and support at both state and federal levels.

The “ABCs of PCBs”: 2016 Report on PCBs in Schools

The ABCs of PCBs: A Toxic Threat to America’s Schools was prepared by the office of Edward J. Markey in collaboration with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and America Unites for Kids.

The report states that as many as 14 million students (around 30% of school-aged children) in the U.S. may be exposed to PCBs in some fashion.

The report acknowledges that the U.S. faces significant challenges in addressing PCB hazards in schools, including:

  • Lack of systematic testing and remediation requirements.
  • Inconsistent enforcement and communication by EPA across different regions.
  • Varying responses to PCB discoveries in schools, with many cases identified accidentally or through litigation.
  • Insufficient funding for testing and remediation.

The report also covers key recommendations to be taken in order to address and remedy PCB contamination in schools across the United States:

  1. EPA should survey schools nationwide to assess PCB hazards and update records.
  2. Mandatory inspections and testing of schools for PCBs should be implemented.
  3. EPA should develop clear guidance for notification about PCB hazards in schools.
  4. EPA should standardize recordkeeping and enforcement related to PCB hazards.
  5. Update guidance on PCB hazards to include lessons learned and best practices.
  6. Congress should authorize and appropriate funds for PCB testing, response, and remediation in schools.

Where are PCBs Found in Schools?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) represent a group of synthetic organic chemicals that possess valuable properties, including electrical insulating capabilities, chemical stability, and flame retardancy.

From electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors to construction materials like caulk, paint, and adhesives, commercial PCB mixtures have played a massive role in various industries.

In particular, school buildings and other public properties were reported to have used PCB-containing materials for construction purposes.

Numerous experts have concluded that PCBs are probable human carcinogens.

This finding led the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop their production in 1977 and eventually ban them under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1979.

Despite the EPA’s action, PCBs remain a hazardous legacy from past practices, as they do not easily degrade in the environment and can still be found in buildings constructed before the ban.

PCB exposures may occur through inhaling polluted indoor air, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, and absorbing the chemicals through skin contact.

As mentioned previously, recent research efforts have focused on identifying indoor air risks.

PCB use in school buildings, particularly in old fluorescent lighting fixtures and construction materials, have raised serious health concerns in the past few years, with multiple schools across the country reporting contamination.

PCB containing light ballasts and building materials may be exposing students, staff, and other building occupants for years on end without any warning.

Developing children, pregnant women, older staff, and individuals with compromised immune systems may be at a higher risk of adverse health effects due to PCB exposure in school settings.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination; An Overview Of PCB Contamination In School Buildings; Where Are PCBs Found In Schools

The possible sources of PCBs in schools include:

  • Fluorescent lighting fixtures
  • Caulking materials
  • Paints, adhesives, and wall coatings
  • Other building materials

PCBs in Fluorescent Lighting Fixtures

A common application of PCBs was in the ballasts of fluorescent lighting fixtures.

The primary function of a fluorescent light ballasts (FLBs) is to provide the proper voltage and current to start and operate the fluorescent lamps.

PCB capacitors, within the ballasts, are used to stabilize the flow of electricity, improve the power factor, and ensure the efficient operation of the lamp.

PCBs were also contained within the interior potting material of fluorescent lighting fixtures, which reduces the “humming” noise stereotypical of these lights.

PCB fluorescent lighting fixtures were widespread in schools due to their energy efficiency, low cost, and durability. 

PCBs allowed fluorescent lights to function efficiently and maintain a longer lifespan.

However, longevity came at a price.

As these PCB-containing light ballasts age or become damaged, the potential for PCB exposure grows.

Older fluorescent lighting fixtures may produce vapors that could be inhaled by those nearby.

PCBs could potentially also escape into the environment through leaks or during the disposal of damaged fixtures.

Emissions and leakage could result in exposure to PCBs or contamination of indoor air quality, putting students and staff at risk.

PCBs in Construction Materials

Another concerning use of PCBs in schools was in construction materials, such as sealants, caulk, and other building components.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), caulk put in place between 1950 and 1979 may contain as much as 40% PCBs, and as it breaks down, could emit PCBs into the surrounding air.

PCBs were also commonly used in roofing materials, flooring finishes, and adhesives.

The addition of PCBs to construction materials enhanced their longevity and wear resistance, making them desirable in the construction of school buildings where longevity and minimal maintenance were priorities.

The issue with applying PCBs into construction materials is that they can leach out over time, a process known as PCB degradation or weathering.

As a school building ages and undergoes wear and tear, PCB-containing materials may break down, releasing the toxic substances into the environment and putting students, teachers, and staff at risk of exposure.

Types of PCB Exposures in Schools

PCBs can leach or vaporize into the environment, posing significant health risks to school students and staff.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination; An Overview Of PCB Contamination In School Buildings; Where Are PCBs Found In Schools; Types Of PCB Exposures In Schools

PCB exposures in schools can potentially occur through the following pathways:

  • Inhalation: Breathing air contaminated with PCBs can lead to exposure through the respiratory system.
  • Dermal Contact: PCBs can seep through the skin and enter the body, especially when individuals handle PCB materials or surfaces.
  • Contaminated Areas: Schools located near industrial plants, hazardous waste sites, or other sources of PCB contamination are at a higher risk of exposure through contaminated air, water, and soil.

PCB exposure symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, acne, skin rashes, eye irritation, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal complications.

Given these risks, the presence of PCBs in school buildings is a matter of grave concern, necessitating immediate attention and action.

If you’ve experienced health effects after being exposed to PCBs in a school setting, contact our law firm.

Have PCBs Been Removed from Schools?

PCBs have been partially removed from some school buildings across the United States, but the full extent of their presence in schools remains largely unknown.

While certain schools, particularly those built or renovated between the 1950s and late 1970s, have undergone remediation efforts to remove PCBs, many others have not been tested or treated.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination; An Overview Of PCB Contamination In School Buildings; Where Are PCBs Found In Schools; Types Of PCB Exposures In Schools; Have PCBs Been Removed From Schools

The lack of a comprehensive, nationwide testing mandate for PCBs in school buildings means that the true number of schools still containing these toxic chemicals is unclear.

In some instances, PCB removal has occurred during renovations or following the incidental discovery of high PCB levels.

However, these cases often come to light only when health concerns arise or during significant construction projects, rather than through proactive testing.

PCB Discoveries in Schools, Fallout, and Remediation Efforts

PCB contamination in schools, primarily found in caulking materials, fluorescent light fixtures, and even contaminated soils, poses potential health risks to students and staff.

The presence of these hazardous substances, often in buildings constructed or renovated between the 1950s and 1970s, can lead to prolonged exposure as students and staff spend hours a day in these buildings for years on end.

PCB contamination necessitates thorough assessment and remediation to ensure the safety and well-being of school communities.

PCBs in Schools; PCB Exposure; PCB Lawsuit; PCB Containing Building Materials; PCBs in School Buildings; PCB Exposures; PCB Contamination; An Overview Of PCB Contamination In School Buildings; Where Are PCBs Found In Schools; Types Of PCB Exposures In Schools; Have PCBs Been Removed From Schools;PCB Discoveries In Schools, Fallout, And Remediation Efforts

Examples of PCB Contamination in Schools

Listed below are several examples of documented PCB contamination in elementary schools, high schools, and universities across the United States.

Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, Malibu, California

High levels of PCBs led to widespread concern among parents of students at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in the early 2010s.

Despite initial reports that PCBs were at “low levels”, parents of students trespassed onto school grounds and retrieved PCB-laden building materials to be privately tested.

Test results revealed that PCB levels were over 7,400x the legal limits.

The situation escalated to legal proceedings, resulting in a 2016 court order for the Santa Monica-Malibu district to abate PCBs by 2024.

According to a 2019 publication from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

“…the District is not on track to meet the 2024 deadline it sought from the court for vacating or demolishing contaminated buildings, rather it plans to continue using four Malibu High School buildings indefinitely – the old gym, the theater/kitchen, the music building and the art building — with only very limited remediation.”

Sky Valley Education Center, Monroe District, Washington State

In Washington state, prolonged PCB exposure at the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe caused illnesses among teachers and students.

Outdated fluorescent lighting fixtures were claimed to have caused neurological problems and other health effects in students and staff.

Legal action has been taken by staff and students, resulting in significant compensation:

The Clark School, Hartford, Connecticut

The Clark School, an elementary school in Hartford, Connecticut, was closed in 2015 after the discovery of toxic PCB levels during a sprinkler installation.

This led to a prolonged legal battle, with the city awaiting a judge’s verdict on whether Monsanto, the manufacturer of PCBs, should bear the cost for demolishing the building.

The school has yet to be demolished, and advocacy groups are conducting health surveys for cancer and other health effects related to PCB exposure.

Yorktown Central School District v. Monsanto Company

The Yorktown Central School District undertook extensive remediation after discovering high PCB levels in several school buildings.

This led to a federal lawsuit against Monsanto to address the financial burden of PCB clean-up efforts.

Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont

Burlington High School and Technical Center were demolished and students temporarily moved to a former Macy’s department store due to PCB contamination discovered in fall 2020.

The Burlington School District subsequently sued Monsanto in December 2022, claiming the company should pay for the construction of a new high school.

PCBs in Iowa and Indiana Schools

A University of Iowa study on PCBs in schools across Iowa and Indiana revealed varying levels of PCBs, albeit below the EPA’s action level.

This study emphasized the importance of modernizing school facilities, such as updating window caulking and light fixtures, to reduce PCB exposure, shedding light on the preventative measures schools can take against PCB contamination.

Potential Health Implications of PCB Exposure for Students, Faculty, and Staff

Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools poses significant health risks, particularly to children who are more susceptible to environmental toxins.

Chronic exposure to PCBs can lead to a range of adverse health effects, including immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine system issues.

Testing for and remediating PCB contamination in school buildings is absolutely necessary.

PCB Cancer Risks

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified PCBs as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning there is sufficient evidence that PCBs can cause human cancer.

PCB Discoveries In Schools, Fallout, And Remediation Efforts; Potential Health Implications Of PCB Exposure For Students, Faculty, And Staff

Types of cancer potentially associated with PCB exposure include:

  • Liver Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Intestinal Cancer
  • Biliary Tract Cancer
  • Malignant Melanoma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Immune System Suppression Due to PCB Exposure

PCBs can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to various illnesses.

Exposed workers and students may experience more frequent and severe infections, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

PCBs may also inhibit the proper functioning of the immune system, leading to a reduced response to vaccines.

Neurological Effects from Exposure to PCBs

PCBs can negatively impact the nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms.

Exposure can result in developmental delays and learning disabilities in children and cognitive impairment in adults.

PCB Discoveries In Schools, Fallout, And Remediation Efforts; Potential Health Implications Of PCB Exposure For Students, Faculty, And Staff; Neurological Effects From Exposure To PCBs

Other potential neurological effects include:

PCBs can significantly affect the neurological development of fetuses, infants, and young children, making these individuals highly vulnerable to toxic effects.

Reproductive Problems

Adult staff and pregnant women may face reproductive issues, as exposure to PCBs can adversely affect the reproductive system in both males and females.

PCB Discoveries In Schools, Fallout, And Remediation Efforts; Potential Health Implications Of PCB Exposure For Students, Faculty, And Staff; Neurological Effects From Exposure To PCBs; Reproductive Problems

Adverse health effects related to the reproductive impacts of PCBs include:

Additionally, exposure to PCBs during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, decreased birth weight, and developmental issues in babies.

Nursing mothers exposed to PCBs may transfer these toxic substances to their infants through breast milk, potentially leading to adverse health effects.

TorHoerman Law: Investigating Exposure to PCBs in St. Louis Schools

TorHoerman Law is investigating PCB levels in St. Louis area schools.

Information exists that leads us to believe that PCBs were used in construction materials and/or fluorescent light ballasts in certain St. Louis schools.

Our attorneys are currently working through the proper avenues to examine PCB levels in these areas.

If you or a loved one have suffered complications from PCB exposure in school buildings, contact TorHoerman Law today for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you’re eligible to file a PCB Lawsuit claimawsuit instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)?

    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic chemicals that were manufactured between the 1930s and 1970s, and used in a variety of electrical equipment, construction materials, and commercial products.

    PCBs were known for their electrical insulating capabilities, chemical stability, and flame retardancy.

    Because of these properties, they were used in school buildings, including fluorescent lighting fixtures and building materials like caulks and sealants, despite known health risks.

  • What health risks are associated with PCB exposure?

    PCB exposure can lead to various health issues, including an increased risk of cancer (particularly liver cancer), weakened immune systems, developmental effects in children, and reproductive problems in both males and females.

  • How can PCBs affect indoor air quality in schools?

    PCBs can seep or evaporate into the environment from construction materials and lighting fixtures.

    PCB emissions can lead to contamination of indoor air quality, posing health risks to students and staff.

  • What are the legal implications of PCB exposure in schools?

    The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and other regulations govern the use, handling, and disposal of PCBs.

    Violations of these regulations can lead to legal consequences.

    Those exposed to PCBs in school buildings may have legal recourse to seek compensation for their health risks and damages.

  • How can TorHoerman Law help victims of PCB exposure in schools?

    TorHoerman Law is currently investigating PCB exposure cases.

    Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to representing individuals exposed to PCBs in school environments, particularly in the St. Louis area.

    We are committed to helping victims seek justice and compensation for their damages.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

Do You
Have A Case?

Here, at TorHoerman Law, we’re committed to helping victims get the justice they deserve.

Since 2009, we have successfully collected over $4 Billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured individuals.

Would you like our help?

About TorHoerman Law

At TorHoerman Law, we believe that if we continue to focus on the people that we represent, and continue to be true to the people that we are – justice will always be served.

Do you believe you’re entitled to compensation?

Use our Instant Case Evaluator to find out in as little as 60 seconds!

$20 Million
Toxic Tort Injury

In this case, we were able to successfully recover $20 Million for our client after they suffered a Toxic Tort Injury due to chemical exposure.

$103.8 Million
COX-2 Inhibitors Injury

In this case, we were able to successfully recover $103.8 Million for our client after they suffered a COX-2 Inhibitors Injury.

$4 Million
Traumatic Brain Injury

In this case, we were able to successfully recover $4 Million for our client after they suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury while at daycare.

$2.8 Million
Defective Heart Device

In this case, we were able to successfully recover $2.8 Million for our client after they suffered an injury due to a Defective Heart Device.

Guides & Resources
Do You
Have A Case?

Here, at TorHoerman Law, we’re committed to helping victims get the justice they deserve.

Since 2009, we have successfully collected over $4 Billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured individuals.

Would you like our help?

Want to learn more about the PCB Lawsuit?

You can learn more about the PCB Lawsuit by visiting any of our pages listed below:

All
FAQs
Injuries & Conditions
Legal Help
Settlements & Compensation
Other Resources

Share

Related Posts