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Light System with PCBs to be Replaced this Summer at Carroll Gardens School

 Parents at Brooklyn New School took photos of possible PCB leaks at the school and compared them to PCB samples on the DOE's website.
Parents at Brooklyn New School took photos of possible PCB leaks at the school and compared them to PCB samples on the DOE's website.
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Ilan Kayatsky

CARROLL GARDENS — P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School will have their building's lighting system completely replaced this summer, according to a letter from Department of Education, after a harmful chemical was discovered in hundreds of contaminated fixtures at the school.

In the letter, dated April 10, the DOE informed the school of their schedule to replace the lights during summer recess to minimize disruption to staff and students.

Fixtures cannot be replaced while the school is in session and the lights are being used, said DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg, in an email.

Parents of students at P.S. 146 and M.S. 448, located at 610 Henry St., were concerned about PCB leaks in the school’s decades-old light fixtures and risk of exposure to their children.

In June 2012, they rallied together, along with elected officials like State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Rep. Nydia Velasquez and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, urging the DOE to remove the chemical from the school building, which houses the Brooklyn New School, as well as M.S. 448 Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies.

Within two weeks of the rally, the DOE confirmed the presence of PCBs at the school and removed the leaky fixtures, said Ilan Kayatsky, a parent at the school and one of the first to bring up the issue at P.S. 146.

At the time, DOE officials said that PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — were not an immediate hazard to the children, but parents remained concerned for the students’ health.

“We don’t think it’s worth taking the risk for our kids,” said Kayatsky, whose son is a first-grader at P.S. 146.

But parents still wanted a complete overhaul of the lighting system that still possibly contained the chemical. Kayatsky and others sent a letter to the DOE, dated March 19, concerned that the light fixtures had not yet been replaced, eight months after their last correspondence with the department.

The DOE responded weeks later informing the school of their summer schedule.

Brooklyn New School isn’t the only one receiving light changes. This summer, 97 buildings will have light replacement projects by the New York City School Construction Authority, Feinberg said, in an email.

In February 2011, the city announced a 10-year comprehensive plan to replace all lights containing PCBs in city schools. The DOE released a list of schools that were possibly contaminated, in March 2012, and Brooklyn New School, along with 700 others, were on the list.

“The replacement of all lighting fixtures in this building was given higher property in the comprehensive plan than other schools at which no visible leaks were found,” according to the letter.

The plan addresses PCBs found in fluorescent lighting fixtures installed in school buildings between 1950 and 1978, as the manufacture of PCBs was outlawed in 1977.

PCBs are a mixture of chlorinated compounds, existing without taste or smell, in the form of oily liquids, solids or even as vapor in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People can be exposed to PCBs through breathing air that contains the chemical or eating contaminated food or water. Acne and rashes are the most common health problem associated with large exposure to the chemical, as well as liver problems but it’s uncommon for most people, according to the CDC.