Saying new regulations would be costly and unnecessary, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and two other prominent education groups are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to issue further requirements concerning the removal of a group of harmful chemicals — Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) — that are commonly found in light fixtures in public buildings constructed prior to 1980.
In a joint letter to EPA’s Director of the National Program Chemicals Division, NSBA; the Association of School Business Officials International; and AASA, The School Superintendents Association said a recent survey the three groups conducted of more than 1,200 school board members, superintendents, school business officials, and maintenance/facilities personnel found that the vast majority of school districts are aware of the issue and “are overwhelmingly already removing PCBs.”
Of those responding to the survey who have buildings their districts constructed prior to 1980, 77.5 percent said they were aware of PCB issues in their schools, with 66 percent actively removing PCBs in all or some of the schools in their district. Only 11.5 percent were aware but not actively addressing these issues. In addition, only 2.1 percent of the 1,200 respondents reported having any PCB-related issue in their schools in the past two years.
“School administrators, school board members, and school business officials remain steadfast in their commitment to providing the students they serve with an excellent education in a safe learning environment, which includes removing potentially harmful environmental factors (like PCBs),” the letter said. “With any federal policy/regulation, the success of the end goal — in this case, elimination of light ballasts with PCBs — depends as much on the policy itself as it does in recognizing the importance of not only state and local leadership but also the unintended consequences, costs and burdens that may come with the rule.”
The new regulations could pose significant financial and operational challenges to schools, which would be responsible for identifying, inspecting, and upgrading light figures that were installed before 1980 to ensure that PCBs were eliminated.