Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PCBs in Light Fixtures - EPA Guidance To Schools

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released guidance recommending steps schools should take to reduce potential exposures to PCBs from older fluorescent lighting fixtures. The guidance is based on evidence that the older ballasts contain PCBs that can leak when the ballasts fail, leading to elevated levels of PCBs in the air of schools that could pose health concerns if they persist over time.

EPA banned the processing and distribution of PCBs in 1979 under their Toxic Substances Control Act authority. However, uses of older PCB-containing ballasts were allowed to continue, provided that the ballasts had not failed and the PCBs were not leaking. EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs. A recent pilot study of three schools in New York City found that many light ballasts in the schools contained PCBs and had also failed, causing the PCBs to leak and contributing to increased levels in the air that school children breathe. EPA is recommending older PCB-containing lighting ballasts be removed, whether as part of a previously scheduled lighting retrofit program or a stand-alone project.

EPA has also developed information on how to properly handle and dispose of PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts and properly retrofit lighting fixtures to remove potential PCB hazards.

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