World renowned supermodel Cindy Crawford, along with a number of other concerned parents, has pulled her children from the Malibu school they attend after the facility tested positive for the chemical PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).
Crawford appeared in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show after the incident to spread awareness about the dangers of the common environmental pollutant, indicating pulling her children from school was a personal choice because she didn’t feel “100 percent safe.”
PCBs are better known an industrial products or chemicals, and though they were banned from use in the U.S. in 1979, prior to that point an estimated 1.5 billions pounds were created for things such as microscope oils, electrical insulators, capacitors, electric appliances such as television sets or refrigerators, and sprays for roadways to keep dust down.
For decades, PCBs leaked into the air, soil and water around the world to the point where, in the 1960’s, evidence of the chemicals could be found in people and animals as far away as the arctic.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates it is possible for PCBs to break down in the environment, but this depends on the surrounding conditions. Without the assistance of sunlight or bacteria, PCBs can persist in the soil or in old industrial products and continue to cause dangerous human exposure.
In the case of Cindy Crawford’s children, PCBs in the school are thought to be a result of old caulk used to seal the windows. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is well aware that older buildings may have an issue with PCBs, but maintains that “the potential presence of PCBs in schools and buildings should not be a cause for alarm there are steps school administrators and building owners can take to protect students, teachers and others.”
“This is not a Malibu issue, Crawford said in the interview. This is really an issue in a lot of older schools, and I just think the laws need to be changed.”
The health risks of PCBs
Even though it is one of the most common pollutants in the world, PCBs are far from harmless. In animals studies they have been linked to cancer, neurological, endocrine, reproductive, and immune issues. In both humans and animals, the EPA indicates a number of other serious health issues have been documented, including ocular, dermal, blood pressure, and cholesterol changes.
“PCBs are associated with a number of health effects, including cancer, Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, explained to Yahoo!. Childrens exposure is of particular concern since PCBs have been associated with learning problems and hormone disruption. Proper hormone signaling is important for normal development. In addition, PCBs are associated with low birth weight in both people and animals.
Because PCBs are difficult to completely eradicate, the EPA currently recommends the following safety measures for people and children who regularly spend time in older buildings:
- Clean frequently to reduce dust and residue inside buildings
- Use a wet or damp cloth or mop to clean surfaces
- Using vacuums with high efficiency particulate air filters
- Do not sweep with dry brooms; minimize the use of dusters
- Wash childrens hands with soap and water often, particularly before eating
- Wash childrens toys frequently
- Wash hands with soap and water after cleaning, and before eating or drinking
The EPA also indicates proper air ventilation systems are key in schools to help minimize exposure to PCBs. Beyond that, removing and replacing the substances thought to be the source of PCBs is the best option for school systems.
As for Cindy Crawford, she indicates she just doesn’t feel comfortable about sending her children back to the Malibu school yet–if ever.
“I look 10 years down the line. What if my kid, God forbid, had a problem? Crawford said in her interview. How could I live with myself, if I knew that it was a possibility, and I still sent them to school there?