2011-01-21 / Top Stories

Toxic Caulk At Far Rockaway School

By Howard Schwach

A parent advocacy group has found that a Far Rockaway school is chockfull of a toxic, cancer-causing substance used to caulk its windows, a new report shows.

The New York Communities For Change, which funded the testing, said in its report that caulk from six schools around the city, including Middle School 53 on Nameoke Street in Far Rockaway, was tested and found to contain levels of PCBs as high as 325,000 parts per million. The federal safety standard is 50 parts per million.

“What we’re trying to do is find out all the facts,” said one of the organization’s officials.

Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began testing city schools for PCBs in the school’s lighting fixtures, finding several schools with high levels of the toxin.

Before the 1970s, caulk containing toxic PCBs was used regularly in school windows to cushion window and door frames to make them more elastic, according to a spokesperson for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Although the use of the toxic material, which has been proved to cause cancer in rats, was banned in 1979, it was used extensively in schools that were built in that era and is still used in some products such as oilbased paint and floor finishes.

The toxin has been known to impact the immune, nervous and reproductive systems in humans.

A number of parents from a Bronx school have sued the Department of Education for not removing the toxins in a timely manner.

PS 65, a school in Ozone Park that is in the same district with the Rockaway schools, is another that is full of toxins, not only from the window frames, but because it was built on the site of a former industrial site where helicopter parts were made.

The Bronx parents who are suing the DOE claim that the city agency kept them hanging for two years, continually saying that the findings about the toxic material in their children’s school “were not available.”

The windows at Beach Channel High School, which were found to have high levels of PCBs, were cleaned last year.

“We are engaged in positive and productive discussions with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop an agreement on a plan to address the PCBs in the public schools,” a DOE spokesperson told The Wave, adding that a pilot program to remediate the problem was being scheduled.

No timetable has yet been set, however.

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