FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Testing for potentially dangerous chemicals continues at Osborn Hill Elementary School in Fairfield. The risk of serious health problems in the school’s students and teachers is low, but officials are working to find the full extent of the problem.
“We are making every effort to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and will be communicating with you on a weekly basis to keep you informed about the progress we are making,” Superintendent David Title and Osborn Hill principal Frank Arnone said in a joint statement.
A seminar will be held for parents with local, state and federal officials answering questions about the issue, Title said. The forum is tentatively scheduled for the week of Aug. 13. Until then, Title has promised to release updated information every Friday.
Fairfield Public Schools began a window replacement project at Osborn Hill this summer, which required hazardous materials testing. The latest round of tests revealed high levels of PCBs in some portions of the school, most notably in the caulking around the windows and the gymnasium.
The spray-on fireproofing in the support beams of Osborn Hill’s gym registered PCB levels of 30,000 parts per million, according to AMC Environmental. Caulk on some of the outside windows had as many as 6,900 parts per million. The EPA considers an environment toxic at 50 parts per million.
AMC also found that in some classrooms the airborne PCB level was more than two times the recommended limit for schools, according to its testing report. The highest levels were in the gymnasium and in the hallway outside Rooms 113 and 116. AMC is still testing the site.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, of PCBs, are man-made chemical compounds once used in hundreds of industrial and commercial products. The federal government banned PCBs in 1979 after scientists discovered they were toxic. Many of Osborn Hill’s materials date to its initial construction in 1958.
Research has found that PCBs are most likely cancerous but only when consumed at high levels over long periods of time. The most common health effects in kids and adults are skin problems, such as hives or rashes. Unborn children are most at risk with PCBs, because the chemicals can cause birth defects.
“Most people normally have low levels of PCBs in their body because nearly everyone has been environmentally exposed to PCBs,” says the Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet on the chemicals. Still, medical tests can determine whether a person’s levels are elevated and hazardous to one’s health.