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PCBs Found in Three More New York Schools

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Three schools sharing a single Manhattan building joined the growing list of public schools where spot inspections have revealed elevated levels of polychlorinated byphenyls, or PCBs, leaking from aging light fixtures.

As many as two-thirds of public schools in New York City use the same type of fluorescent lights known to contain PCBs, according to a document prepared by the city’s Department of Education. According to the Department of Education list, 1,120 schools use the light fixtures linked to PCBs, although the total number of school buildings affected is lower because multiple schools often share a single building.

The chemicals, frequently used in building materials beginning in the 1950s, were banned in 1978 after they were linked to cancer and other health problems with reproductive and immune systems.

The EPA has pushed city officials to begin removing all the fixtures that contain PCBs, not just those where leakage has been confirmed. City officials argue that the chemicals pose no immediate threat to students or school staff. Both sides also disagree on how much it would cost to replace the lights, with the city estimate at $1 billion.

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