Editor’s Note: This is an open letter to the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board of Education from the Malibu Parents For Healthy Schools regarding hazardous substances at the Malibu Middle and High School Campus.
Dear Members of the Board of Education and Malibu Environmental Task Force:
Following recent revelations of serious illnesses among teachers on the Middle School campus and the discovery of PCB and pesticide contamination next to the classroom buildings in the Middle School Quad, a group of concerned Malibu parents joined together to retain an independent environmental expert to recommend testing protocols and precautionary measures to insure the safety of our children, their teachers and the administrators at the Malibu campus.
Our group – Malibu Parents for Healthy Schools – retained Dr. Paul Rosenfeld of SWAPE, LLC, a Santa Monica based environmental company, as our independent consultant. Dr. Rosenfeld holds a PhD in soil chemistry, has published over three dozen books and scientific articles on hazardous substances and the environment, and has advised the U.S. Navy (on PCB soil contamination), the City of Seattle, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and a wide range of governmental and private clients on environmental and toxic substance issues.
(For further information on his company, please see www.swape.com).
At our request, SWAPE has reviewed all of the environmental reports and tests that the District has made publicly available and has provided us with its recommended testing protocol to protect the health of our children and all of the teachers and staff. Attached is a copy of SWAPE’s recommendations.
As explained in SWAPE’s letter to us, in 2010 ARCADIS (the District’s environmental
consultant) discovered that the soil next to the buildings in the Middle School Quad was
contaminated with PCB at over 11 times the California recommended levels (as well as with pesticides, benzene and toluene). As a result, during the summer of 2011, the District removed 48 truckloads of contaminated soil from the Quad. However, ARCADIS made clear in its report that “the source of the PCBs has not been identified.” Given that the contaminated soil was next to the school buildings and given that these buildings were built at a time when PCB was commonly used in caulking, paint and other building materials, SWAPE recommends the immediate air testing of the classrooms in the buildings surrounding the Middle School Quad for PCB and the testing of building materials in these buildings for PCB.
Although not addressed in SWAPE’s letter, we are also concerned about the large number of cancers and other serious illnesses reported by the Middle School teachers. We understand that at least three Malibu Middle School teachers have reported the diagnosis of thyroid cancer during the last six months – which is exponentially higher than the expected annual incidence of less than two per 10,000 Americans. Given that the EPA classifies PCB as a probable human carcinogen, we believe that it is critically important to immediately undertake the recommended PCB air tests at the school.
SWAPE’s recommendations are consistent with those of the EPA. The EPA provides the
following advice to administrators of schools (such as ours) built between 1950 and 1979: “If school administrators and building owners are concerned about exposure to PCBs and wish to supplement these steps [comprising frequent cleaning and air filter use], EPA recommends testing to determine if PCB levels in the air exceed EPA’s suggested public health levels. If testing reveals PCB levels above these levels, schools should attempt to identify any potential sources of PCBs that may be present in the building, including testing samples of caulk and other building materials.” (http://www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk/caulkexposure.htm)
We were pleased that the Task Force has agreed to work with our environmental consultant to make sure the school is safe. We look forward to your immediate response confirming that SWAPE’s recommendations (air testing and building sample testing for PCBs) will be incorporated into your plan and will be promptly carried out.
We have asked Dr. Rosenfeld to contact the Task Force’s consultant, Mark Katchen, so that both of them may work together to present their agreements (and any differences) to the Task Force and to the parents at Malibu High School this coming Thursday.
Len Simonian and Ken Miller
on behalf of Malibu Parents For Healthy Schools