Sunday, January 2, 2011

EPA coming to a school near you

From the Daily News:

The Environmental Protection Agency released new guidelines for schools grappling with older light fixtures contaminated by a cancer-causing toxin.

The recommendations announced Thursday are for schools handling and removing lights laden with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The action comes on the heels of a Bronx mom's 2009 lawsuit against the city Department of Education over the cleanup of high PCB levels in her children's Co-op City school.

Steve Owens, EPA's assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said in a statement that as the EPA learned more about PCB risks in older buildings, it would work closely with schools to make sure they were safe.

The EPA wants the city to remove the lights in about 800 schools in an "expedited time frame," but the city says the lights pose no immediate health risks and removing them would cost more than $1 billion.

The EPA is set to begin testing city classrooms for PCB contamination next month.

In 1979, the EPA banned PCBs, which were used in electrical resistors to control lights and have been linked to cancer, birth defects and learning difficulties.

City Education officials declined to comment yesterday, but a letter sent to the EPA by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott last week scolded the agency for singling out the city, when buildings across the country contain PCB-contaminated lights.


Joe said...

Something wrong with this story. There are no resistors or dimmer circuitry in lighting fixtures used in schools florescent or incandescent.
A ballast transformer perhaps, those can spew PCB's when they burn out. But you would know...The smell is acrid and just awful

Leave it to the Daily News

ew-3 said...

Leave it to the EPA

Velvethead said...

Ballasts are sealed.
Common sense is to simply let them fail over time.
Typical EPA "money is no object" hype and mandate.
Local 3 is gonna be happy.

Anonymous said...

Velvethead said...

Ballasts are sealed.

Not when pressure builds up from overheating due to shorted turns.

Many 1950s vintage schools (and most later) have "slimline" single pin lamps of 6-8 foot size.

These require a step up transformer to bring the potential to approx 720VAC and these fail by slowly developing shorts in their windings. This builds up heat and if not stopped will eventually cause a rupture of the potting compound as it boils out.

Within the last 15 years, these older style magnetic ballasts have been replaced by electronic oscillator/step-up (SMPS) ballasts and the toxin problem is eliminated.

Replacing the entire fixture is -not- necessary.

Joe said...

Replacing the entire fixture is -not- necessary.

Exactly !
And these "slimline" single pin lamps have better light, last 10X longer then this "green" crap made today.
I have 8ft in both my barn and garage in Mattituck (along with 30 or so NOS Westinghouse spares and transformers).

Sweet deal for the Unions.
Instead of simply fitting $30 SMPS ballasts they will be replacing 1000's of complete fixtures.
After all the paper pushers, electrical and maintenance unions a $55 fixture will cost over a $800 installed.
It takes a 1/2 hour to change a ballast and do a restoration for single pin. Including inspecting all the wiring, wiping the tubes, steel wooling the contacts and hitting the reflector with some white paint.
Its not rocket science and it leaves you with a better longer lasting lighting fixture.

Anonymous said...

Joe said...Sweet deal for the Unions."

The bigger, long standing scandal is the failure of the electrical product manufacturers to make ballast replacement a simple, consumer procedure.

Ballasts could easily be equipped with simple Molex/Jones type plugs that are specific to a type and wattage and thus fool-proof and a simple plug-in replacement procedure.

The likely reason? The electrician's union would boycott any manufacturer who even -proposed- such a scheme...ballast replacement at $180+/per is easy money. Not only exorbitant..but sloppy and lazy in that they will often leave a dead ballast in the fixture and just plop in a new one next to it if the fixture faces upwards and the old unit is "too much trouble" to remove.

I have them in my businesses and do this work myself.