By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Lawmakers are calling for more testing to determine whether toxic chemicals are contaminating city schools — including the Upper West Side's P.S. 199.
State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, asked the Environmental Protection Agency this week for more action on ridding schools of PCBs, toxic chemicals linked to "cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and cognitive damage.
Elevated levels of PCBs were discovered in 2008 at P.S. 199, at 270 W. 70th Street near West End Avenue. The toxins were discovered in caulking in the school's windows. Further testing earlier this year revealed PCBs were also present in light fixtures that have hung in classrooms for decades.
The caulking and light fixtures were removed from P.S. 199 and another school, but that didn't solve the problem, officials with the Department of Education said. In some cases higher levels of PCBs were detected after the light fixtures were removed, said DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg.
"For teachers who have been in these classrooms for many years, it's frightening," Rosenthal told DNAinfo. "For little bodies, the risks could be great."
In her letter to EPA, Rosenthal called for more testing at schools across the city, and, if needed, the removal of contaminated light fixtures from other city schools.
Rosenthal aso wants the ventilation system at P.S. 199 tested to see whether it could be a source of PCB contamination. The school will undergo another round of testing during the three-day Columbus Day weekend.
DOE officials say they want to wait on testing schools citywide until after they learn the results of a pilot testing program at P.S. 199 and four other schools — in part because it's expensive to treat the PCB contamination.
Removing the light fixtures from two schools cost $3 million, said Feinberg.
"Experts have said there is no immediate health threat, and we believe it would be irresponsible to move forward with a city-wide plan, which potentially carries a billion dollar price tag, before we have better information and complete this pilot project," Feinberg said in a statement.
Rosenthal disagrees. "You can’t really put a price on children’s health," Rosenthal told DNAinfo.