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Upper West Side's P.S. 199 Part of Pilot Program to Test for PCBs

By Serena Solomon | March 29, 2010 3:11pm | Updated on March 29, 2010 3:07pm
The presence of the chemical, PCBs, was first detected at PS 199 two years ago.
The presence of the chemical, PCBs, was first detected at PS 199 two years ago.
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Serena Solomon/DNAinfo

By Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — An Upper West Side school, which first alerted the city to toxic chemicals in its building, has been selected as one of five schools to be involved in a pilot program that will test, assess and reduce exposure to PCBs.

A dust laced with the dangerous PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, was discovered at P.S. 199 in 2008 and led to two years of lobbying by parents and elected officials to insure the safety of students.

High levels of PCBs have since been found in other New York schools leading to the Department of Education to announce plans for a pilot testing program in January. The department announced which five schools will be tested first on Thursday.

"I applaud the city and state for launching a serious study of PCB contamination in our city schools, and for selecting P.S. 199 as this borough’s pilot entry," said Borough President Scott Stringer. "The parents of P.S. 199 have been steadfast advocates in this effort, and their activism has raised the profile of PCB safety for schools across the city."

Prolonged exposure to PCBs can cause respiratory problems and even cancer, according to Nancy Rothman, who holds a Ph.D in chemistry and provided technical support to the PTA at P.S. 199. The chemical was used in the construction of some city buildings from 1950 to 1977.

"We (PTA) did our own testing and lot of things came up quite high (with toxins)," said Kimberly Norton Butler, whohad two kids at the school and was the vice president of the PTA when the chemical was originally discovered at P.S. 199. "The rugs we tested were contaminated with PCBs. Children and teachers were cleaning up dust on a daily basis."