Editorial: Time for turnaround on PCBs in Worcester schools

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Worcester school officials could have put their attention on old window caulking and other building materials that harbor potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

Instead, it appears they opted for bureaucratic walls and legal wrangling.

Over several years of this, a potentially serious PCB problem has persisted.


In at least three city schools, according to the limited data available — and perhaps quite a few more — children and teachers remain at risk from polychlorinated biphenyls. The man-made organic compounds were commonly used in caulking and fluorescent lighting ballasts in schools and other buildings that were constructed or renovated in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

A federal ban on PCBs took effect in 1979. However, in a regulatory gap U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, vowed last week to repair, school officials are not required to replace potentially dangerous caulking or lighting fixtures unless PCB levels exceeding 50 parts per million are measured and recorded.

It amounts to a “don’t test, don’t tell” situation that potentially puts users of an older building at risk.

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