The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has asked the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department to investigate possible trespassing and vandalism charges after it was alleged Malibu parents improperly took samples from window caulk in classrooms to test for compounds known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs in caulk were widely used in buildings built 40+ years ago. Because of possible impacts on human health and the environment, the use and production of PCBs are now banned or severely restricted in many countries.
According to these parents, the results of these independent tests found that there were traces of PCBs in 31 classrooms and the amount of PCBs in the samples were well over 50 parts per million. EPA regulations implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) prohibit the use of PCBs in caulk and other building materials manufactured with PCBs at levels greater than or equal to 50 ppm, including the continued use of such materials that are already in place. (http://www3.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/caulk/pdf/pcb_bdg_mat_qa.pdf)
See pages 17-18 ). The tests done by the District found traces of PCBs, but not nearly as high of levels and in a lot less classrooms than the independent tests done by parents.
The District, still in its ongoing EP- approved cleanup process, insists that there is no airborne threat to teachers or students. Furthermore, since there is nothing seeping out of the caulk the District insists there is nothing to worry about.
This story initially made headlines in October of 2013 when parents and teachers became concerned when three teachers who worked in the same building were all diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The District conducted tests at that time and found that a small fraction of samples came back with PCB levels above 50 parts per million. Classes conducted in the classrooms that tested high were moved to non-contaminated classrooms that allowed the district superintendent to insist it was safe to be at school.
However the district’s testing did not satisfy all the parents, leading a number of them to take matters into their own hands by collecting their own test samples.
As a result of the high PCB levels found by the parents, they and their supporters held a press conference and rally in front of City Hall on Friday November 5th while the district board was meeting inside. Supporters were there in full force with signs touting their slogan, “Test not Arrest.” Both Fox and NBC were there to report on the rally.
(above: The scene out in front of City Hall on Friday, the 5th.)
Among those who spoke in support of further action from the District was America Unites member and concerned mother Beth Lucas, Malibu City Council member Skylar Peak, and SMMUSD board member Oscar de la Torre.
(Above: SMMUSD board member Oscar de la Torre speaks to parents and the media)
With regard to the allegations of trespassing and vandalism, the parents and supporters believe that when all the facts are known, whoever collected these samples will be hailed a hero.
Update 2/23/16: On March 1st there will be a town hall with International PCB Expert DR. DAVID CARPENTER to discuss PCB exposure at Malibu Schools. For full information on the event click here.