Vermont launches first program in the nation to test for and reduce PCBs exposure in schools

MONTPELIER, Vt. – This spring, schools across Vermont will begin testing for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a harmful group of human-made chemicals commonly used in building materials and electrical equipment before 1980. Vermont is the first state in the nation to require PCB testing in schools. If levels are detected at or above school action levels, schools are required to address the sources of PCBs to reduce exposure.

“PCBs are chemicals that can cause serious health problems,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “The effects of PCB exposure may not be immediate, but they can be serious. This statewide program will inform the actions needed to protect the health of our children and the health of the teachers and staff in our schools.”

The potential for health effects from exposure to PCBs, as with other chemicals, depends on how much, how often, and how long someone is exposed to them. Numerous studies in both animals and humans have shown that exposure to PCBs can affect the nervous, immune, reproductive and endocrine systems. PCBs are also classified as probable human carcinogens.

Vermont’s program is part of Act 74, passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2021, requiring every school constructed or renovated before 1980 to test their indoor air for PCBs by July 1, 2024. Additionally, Vermont legislation gives the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) authority to require action when PCBs are found at or above school action levels.

“We are working closely with school administrators, facility managers, and Health Department officials to test for PCBs, analyze results, and if necessary, identify steps to reduce PCB levels,” said DEC Commissioner Peter Walke. “This program will help us deliver valuable public health information to school administrators and support them in making decisions going forward that will protect students, teachers and school staff.”

Testing will focus on schools built or renovated before 1980 because they are more likely to have PCBs in their building materials. For example, old lighting ballasts may contain PCB oil. As the ballasts age, the PCB oil can leak onto nearby surfaces or produce vapors in the air. Similarly, if caulking containing PCBs deteriorates, PCBs may be released into the dust or air.

Once testing is underway, schools will be notified of the results and will be sent an individualized letter outlining the next steps. Results will also be posted online. If any results are at or above the school action level, there are ways that a school can lower exposure to occupants while they are working with DEC to address the sources of PCBs.

For more information about the school testing program, visit dec.vermont.gov/pcb-schools. For more information about the health effects of PCB exposure, visit healthvermont.gov/pcb.

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Media Contact:
Elle O’Casey, Director of Communication
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
(802) 760-9967; elle.ocasey@vermont.gov

Ben Truman, Public Health Communication Officer
Vermont Department of Health
802-316-2117 / 802-863-7281
bennett.truman@vermont.gov

Image courtesy of Public domain
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8 thoughts on “Vermont launches first program in the nation to test for and reduce PCBs exposure in schools

  1. Can you get more from your pizza box? From your Teflon pans? Not saying it isn’t bad, just suggesting the new levels VERMONT alone has adopted could be very problematic. Could be a great excuse to rebuild every school. Course they might find they have to rebuild every home too.

  2. Well, I went to Burlington High School along with thousands of others and have not seen
    any adverse effects, other than getting old !!

    So, with all these concerns of PCB now, why ??, I think we need a class action lawsuit as
    they made us go to these schools and the teachers made us sit in class.

    ” Students VS NEA ” sounds good to me, let’s get our money back……..Fools in charge !!

  3. This is great news! Vermont has finally come to its senses and will test for “Pure Commie Bull***t” in its school. Have they tested the State House yet?

  4. This is great news! Vermont is finally coming to its senses and will test for “Pure Commie Bull” pervasive in our schools. I wonder if they have checked the State House yet?

  5. Not that this is a bad thing but the program that’s most needed is one to get indoctrination out
    of schools and Reading Writing Arithmetic, and TRUE History back in schools.
    How many of us went to schools with “trace” PCB’s in the 50’s 60’s 70’s and on without
    any effect on our health? Is this just another rabbit hole like the 0.03% of gorebull warmongering their trying to waste our money on?

  6. Not to dismiss the dangers of these early “forever chemicals” but Vermont’s testing threshold is very low and the equipment very sensitive, so if the same reaction happens as did in closing Burlington HS, there will be a lot of schools shutting down. If you think the Vermont taxpayer is already burdened with out-of-control costs of education, just wait until the VTNEA teachers’ union gets the results of the testing. It will make the COVID shutdowns look like a snow day.

    • Agree. The testing needs to be standardized and triple checked. It is a new field of testing, and several laboratory scientists have spoken out, but have been silenced. The history of the testing procedure needs to be investigated. Once again, it sounds like our Politicians are making hasty decisions based on “Social Science” rather than “Real Science”. I’m not trying to say PCBs aren’t bad, but that the testing procedure is new and the ambient levels of PCBs using the new detection methods are not well correlated with adverse health consequences.

      Stop The Mandates and let Science Run Its Course!!!

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