Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, produce a number of toxic effects in animals. They have been linked to such health concerns as decreased gestational age, lower birth weight, depressed immune responses, impaired mental development, and growth retardation. However, no direct causal relationship has been established between PCB exposure and human health effects.
Many schools in the U.S. have light ballasts containing PCBs. The PCBs are contained within the light ballasts' capacitors and in the ballasts' potting material, which is used for insulation. As long as the PCBs remain in the ballasts and potting material, they do not pose a health risk or environmental hazard. However, as they age, the ballasts degrade, increasing the risk of leaks or even fires, which would pose a health and environmental hazard.
For more information on PCBs, visit:
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PCBs are mixtures of synthetic organic chemicals with the same basic chemical structure and
similar physical properties ranging from oily liquids to waxy solids.
Featured PCBs Resources:
PCBs in Building Caulk
In recent years, EPA has learned that caulk containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was used in some buildings, including schools, in the 1950s through the 1970s. Buildings built after 1980 are less likely to contain caulk that contains PCBs.
Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps to make windows, masonry and joints in buildings and other structures watertight or airtight. EPA does not have information on the extent of the use of PCB-containing caulk or whether it was primarily used in certain geographic areas. To date it has been found in buildings in the northeastern United States and in joints in concrete water storage basins in the western United States.
Source: EPA - Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics
EPA School Siting Guidelines
EPA's voluntary school siting guidelines can help local school districts (local education agencies or LEAs) and community members evaluate environmental factors to make the best possible school siting decisions. This website includes an overview for the guidelines, as well as links to resources and additional information.
Source: EPA - Office of Children's Health Protection
Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT)
HealthySEAT is a new software tool from EPA designed to help school districts conduct voluntary, customized self-assessments of their school facilities for environmental, health, and safety hazards.
Source: EPA - Office of Air and Radiation - Indoor Environments Division
California -- Sustainable Schools
This website provides a diverse collection of sustainable building
resources that will help schools create high performance educational facilities that will ensure the optimal health and productivity of students and faculty.
Source: California Division of the State Architect
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Improving Environmental Conditions in MA Schools
This website provides links to a variety of web resources that address how to improve the school environment. Topics such as facilities management (including a wide range of environmental, health and safety issues), hazardous waste site impacts on schools, transportation, and waste reduction and recycling are addressed.
Source: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Green Buildings Portal
Green or sustainable building is the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation,
operation, maintenance, and demolition. EPA's Green Building web portal provides links to energy, waste, water, materials, and indoor environment resources.
Source: EPA-Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response - Office of Solid Waste
Environmental Compliance and Best Management Practices Guidance Manual
This comprehensive environmental manual is available on-line in both English and Spanish.
Source: EPA - Region 2
National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse
The National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse is your guide to compliance information on the Internet. It provides quick access to compliance tools, contacts, and planned activities from across EPA as well as other compliance assistance providers.
Source: EPA - National Compliance Assistance Clearninghouse
NCEF- Healthy School Environments Resource List
National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities resource list of links, books, and journal articles on environmentally safe and healthy school buildings.
Source: National Institute of Building Sciences - National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities
LEED for Schools
The LEED for Schools Rating System recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools. Based on the LEED for New Construction rating system, it addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment.
Source: U.S. Green Building Council
New Hampshire Healthy School Environments
This website provides links to resources to help schools assess and address health, safety and environmental issues in school buildings. Both a fact sheet on NH Department of Environmental Services (NH DES) efforts to customize EPA's HealthySEAT , as well as New Hampshire customization of the software may be downloaded from this site.
Source: New Hampshire Department of Envrionmental Services Air Resources Division - Air Resources Division
Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Walkthrough Video Assessment
This is a streaming-video module directed towards schools in city environments. The purpose is to help people identify potential indoor air quality problems and how to correct them. Based on EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program.
Source: Rutgers University
Indiana - IDEM E-Newsletter for Indiana Educators
This newletter provides information on a range of environmental topics which schools must address.
Source: Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Washington State School Health and Safety Program
The program provides consultation, technical assistance, and training to local health jurisdictions, schools, and parent groups on school health and safety issues.
Source: Washington State Department of Health - Office of Environmental Health & Safety
Massachusetts Environmental Health and Safety Issues in Massachusetts' Primary Schools
The interagency Healthy Schools Council was tasked with identifying a list of the most important issues for schools to address in terms of environmental health and safety. A multi-agency/multi-media checklist was developed addressing these issues.
Source: Massachusetts Healthy Schools Council - Massachusetts Department of Public Health
EPA Guide to Protecting Children's Health in Schools
Software tool developed by EPA Region 5 and Purdue University provides information on hazards found in schools, inlcuding a virtual tour of a school, the potential effects of those hazards on children's health, planning tools, case studies, and lnks to resources to help schools prevent and fix environmental problems.
Source: EPA Region 5 & Purdue University
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Kit
This Web site provides a description of the IAQ Tools for Schools Kit which shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to improve indoor air quality at little or no cost using common sense activities and in-house staff.
Source: EPA Region 6 - Tools for Schools Program
Removing PCBs from Light Fixtures: Protecting Students from Hidden Dangers
This site describes the hazards associated with aging pcb-containing light ballasts and proper replacement techniques.
Source: EPA Region 9 - Pollution Prevention Program
An introduction to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks you might encounter in everyday life, in everyday places, including schools.
Source: National Institutes of Health - National Library of Medicine
Inventory of Federal School Environmental Health Activities
This inventory was prepared by the Schools Workgroup of the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children and includes descriptions of major school related programs and activities of EPA and other Federal departments and Agencies.
Source: EPA -- President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children
EPA New England's K-12 Schools Website
This site discusses efforts to improve coordination and integration amongst EPA's many schools related programs, and provides links to Regional topic specific web sites, such as: asbestos, diesel school buses, drinking water, environmental management systems, energy, indoor air quality, lead, mercury and teacher and student resources. Links to national websites are provided as well.
Source: EPA Region 1
Florida -- Brevard County Public Schools Office of Plant Operations and Maintenance
The Office of Plant Operations and Maintenance for Brevard Public Schools in east-central Florida provides information to school administrators and facility managers on a wide range of environmental health and safety topics.
Source: Florida Brevard Public Schools - Environmental Health and Safety
Illinois -- Greening Schools
Greening Schools offers FREE technical assistance, workshops for teachers, administrators and facility managers, and on-line resources related to pollution prevention for all Illinois schools.
Source: Illinois Waste Management and Research Center
EPA Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) establishes requirements for Federal, State and local governments, Indian Tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and Community Right-to-Know reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals. The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public's knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.
Source: EPA Chemical Emergency Preparedness & Prevention - Chemical Emergency Preparedness & Prevention (CEPPO)
American School and Hospital Maintenance Magazine
Provides facility managers with information regarding current facility management issues and the latest products. Many of these topics are relevant to maintenance at school facilities.
Source: Continental Communications