Concern over polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, is not new. In fact, it took years for the Educational Association of Worcester, the city teachers’ union, to secure a June ruling that would allow it to test for PCB levels at Burncoat and Doherty Memorial high schools.
The organic compound found to cause cancer in lab animals and to have a number of potentially serious health effects for humans, including some cancers, is most commonly found in window caulking, brickwork and fluorescent lighting fixtures.
The School Committee has thus far resisted the EAW’s calls for testing and filed an appeal to the June state Labor Relations Board ruling. The city is quick to point out, though, that it has taken steps to address PCB concerns with a number of window and fluorescent light ballast replacement projects.
Here are seven things you should know about PCBs and how they relate to Worcester’s aging public school buildings.
#1) 29 school buildings built or renovated when PCBs were in use
There are 20 school buildings in current use that were constructed in the “PCB era,” between 1930 and 1979, when use of the manmade compound was prevalent (particularly beginning about 1950) in building materials. Manufacturing of the potential human carcinogen was banned by the EPA in 1979. Nine other schools had additions or “major” renovations during that time period, according to Worcester Public Schools.