Posts tagged "toxins"
December 7, 2011
Nine months after the city announced a 10-year plan to find and remove fluorescent light fixtures in schools that may contain hazardous chemicals, the city’s School Construction Authority has released a list of 754 school buildings that have been flagged for follow-up.
The list is the product of a survey of buildings the city completed last year, but it has never before been released, according to a legal group that has been pushing for faster cleanup. The document was released last month, shortly after NYLPI filed a Freedom of Information Law request. That request yielded a more complete accounting of schools with suspect lights, which NYPLI has published on its website.
The chemicals in question, referred to as polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, were present inside of some florescent lights installed in schools before 1979, when the federal government banned their use.
City officials have said the lights pose no immediate health risk to students. But many elected officials and public health advocates charge that the department is not moving quickly enough to remove the chemicals.
On Monday, the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest will hold a press conference at City Hall, as it has done several times in the past year, calling for the DOE to immediately remove all potentially dangerous light fixtures from its buildings. (more…)
October 13, 2011
Renewing criticism of how the Department of Education handled safety concerns at their former building, parents from P.S. 51 in the Bronx say their new site isn’t up to par, either.
That was the message that parents and community activists brought to Wednesday night’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting at the Bronx High School for Business. At a press conference outside the meeting and during the shorter-than-usual meeting itself, they charged that the city still has not done enough to ensure safety for P.S. 51′s students and teachers.
The city relocated P.S. 51 in August after detecting dangerous levels of a cancer-causing chemical at the original school building. The city detected the toxic chemical in February but did not disclose the discovery to families until this summer.
“We demand that protocol be put in place to remove students from toxic sites immediately, not five or six months after a problem is discovered,” said Alan Gary, whose son, Nathanial, is a former P.S. 51 student. “We believe it’s the parents’ decision to decide whether or not to send their kids to a school. Dennis Walcott, how dare you? You took away the rights of parents to protect their children by not informing us.”
Parents at the press conference called on the DOE to register each student who was exposed to the chemical, called trichloroethylene or TCE, and monitor their medical conditions over time — something the teachers union has said it will do for teachers who worked in the building. (more…)
September 7, 2011
Weeks after the city announced that students at a Bronx elementary school had been exposed to toxins for years, parents and lawyers from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest are renewing their call for city officials to protect students against another toxin found in schools: PCBs, which are present in older light fixtures. (more…)
September 6, 2011
For his first school visit of the new year, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew chose P.S. 51, where teachers and students recently learned they were exposed to a toxic chemical.
The Bronx school abruptly relocated this summer in the wake of news that high levels of a toxic chemical had been detected at its former building. The new location, chosen just three weeks ago, is a stone building that until June housed a Catholic school. Now a sign for P.S. 51 sits atop a freshly-painted red front door.
As teachers around the city began sprucing up their classrooms and planning their first lessons, P.S. 51 teachers spent last week hauling supplies to their new building and reassuring families at an open house.
Moving “was a huge task. The teachers were working tirelessly last week,” said Eileen Bernstein, the UFT chapter leader who has taught at P.S. 51 for two decades.
Rick Romain, another P.S. 51 teacher, said he was grateful that the school was able to stay together instead of being dispersed across multiple sites. But he said there were some downsides to the move. “Some kids are a little afraid to get on the school buses,” he said. “Some parents are inconvenienced because they have to find a way to get to work.”
Mulgrew sat with teachers in the school’s basement cafeteria for close to an hour this morning. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mulgrew repeated his criticism of the Department of Education for failing to test the school’s building, and 31 other sites, for trichloroethylene, a carcinogen.
“There is an obligation on behalf of the city to make sure that every school site is safe for children,” he said.
He said the union wants teachers who worked in the building, where students were said to frequently complain of headaches and breathing problems, to be monitored over time for medical conditions: “To not have that monitoring would be irresponsible.” (more…)
August 18, 2011
Admitting that they had responded too slowly to news of toxic chemicals at a Bronx elementary school, Department of Education officials said the city would accelerate environmental testing of leased school sites.
At a public meeting tonight for people who attended or worked at P.S. 51, which was shuttered two weeks ago over concerns about toxic chemicals detected there, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would complete reviews of 31 sites where leases are up for renewal by the beginning of September.
The announcement comes after mounting criticism of the way the department’s has dealt with toxic chemicals in schools, especially PCBs found in older light fixtures. A nonprofit law firm, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, announced yesterday it planned to sue the DOE over the fixtures on behalf of New York Community for Change, a parent organization.
Hundreds of anxious P.S. 51 parents and students, past and present, came to the Bronx High School of Science tonight to learn more about safety concerns at the school.
Walcott also revealed where P.S. 51′s 225 current students would attend school next month. They will be bused two miles to a Catholic school building, St. Martin of Tours on East 182nd Street, where P.S. 51 will be the only school on site, he said.
Walcott also apologized repeatedly for the DOE’s slow response to the safety concern. The city detected unsafe levels of a toxic chemical at P.S. 51 six months ago, before Walcott became chancellor, but did not disclose that fact to families until this summer.
“I own this,” Walcott said. “I am the chancellor, and I will take full responsibility for this.” (more…)