Burst Light Bulb Forces Evacuation of Harlem Schools, Injures 11

By Alan Neuhauser and Nigel Chiwaya  on May 7, 2013 3:20pm

 Nine students and two adults were injured after a fluorescent light bulb exploded in a school building shared by P.S. 123 and Success Academy Harlem 5 late Tuesday morning, May 7, 2013, authorities say.
Nine students and two adults were injured after a fluorescent light bulb exploded in a school building shared by P.S. 123 and Success Academy Harlem 5 late Tuesday morning, May 7, 2013, authorities say.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

HARLEM — Eleven people were injured and two schools evacuated after a fluorescent light bulb exploded in a shared Success Academy and P.S./I.S. 123 school building on Tuesday, potentially releasing a small cloud of toxic chemicals, authorities said.

The incident occurred about 11 a.m., when students and staff members saw smoke spreading from a light fixture in a third-floor classroom at 301 W. 40th St., a building that houses both P.S./I.S. 123 and Success Academy Harlem 5 charter school.

Nine eighth-graders ages 14 and 15 from P.S./I.S. 123 and two adults were taken to Harlem Hospital, the FDNY and Department of Education said.

The victims' conditions were not immediately available. The schools were reopened by 11:45 a.m., but the third-floor classroom where the bulb exploded will remain closed until school officials confirm whether the fixture contained polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs, a toxin once used in fluorescent light fixtures before it was banned by Congress in 1979.

"As per our protocol, the fixture will be inspected and removed tonight and the room will be ventilated," DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said in a statement.

The incident marks the second time in less than a week that a fluorescent light bulb fixture began smoking at a shared DOE and Success Academy school building. On May 3, smoke began wafting from a fixture in the administrative office for P.S. 368 in Cobble Hill, which shared space with Success Academy.

Officials were investigating whether that light fixture held PCBs. Success Academy's Cobble Hill school had also previously attracted criticism last month for replacing potentially contaminated fixtures without prior DOE consent.

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