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Mold, PCB Endanger Students in School Facilities


By Dan Hounsell IAQ
school kids sitting in classroom with teacher

The nation’s education facilities are supposed to provide safe and healthy learning environments for students and teachers, but as maintenance and repair efforts in many facilities continues to languish, these environments are becoming increasingly hazardous.

At the College of William and Mary, several students moving into dorms in Bryan Hall were met by black mold speckled on ceilings. Facilities personnel said some of the mold originated from poor insulation of pipes, which get sweaty due to the extreme humidity during summer months, according to The Flat Hat.

The students’ experiences are part of an ongoing reported issue in on-campus residential buildings. The incidents are often reported in older facilities that were originally designed with no air conditioning, says Teresa Belback, the university’s director of environmental health and safety, adding that her office has continued to receive complaints about mold in on-campus housing this year. She said that the number of mold related reports tends to increase at the beginning of semesters, after extended periods in which the buildings have been closed.

In addition to mold problems afflicting K-12 schools, millions of fluorescent light ballasts containing PCBs probably remain in schools and daycare centers across the United States four decades after the chemicals were banned over concerns that they could cause cancer and other illnesses, according to U.S. News and World Report. Many older buildings also have caulk, ceiling tiles, floor adhesives and paint made with PCBs, which sometimes have been found at levels far higher than allowed by law.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not attempted to determine the scope of PCB contamination or assess potential health risks, in large part because of lack of funding, political pressure and pushback from industry and education groups, according to dozens of interviews and thousands of pages of documents examined by The Associated Press.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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