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Why PCBs are still a problem: KPCC's Stephanie O'Neill reports for 'Reveal'




Across the country, tens of thousands of public schools could be contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls – a compound more commonly known as PCBs, which were used widely in the caulking of windows.
Across the country, tens of thousands of public schools could be contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls – a compound more commonly known as PCBs, which were used widely in the caulking of windows.
Anna Vignet/Reveal

Across the country, tens of thousands of public schools could be contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls – compounds more commonly known as PCBs, which were used widely in building materials such as window caulk. 

The sleeper chemical was banned in 1979 but still poses a serious health risk to kids today, including in relatively affluent Malibu, California. 

Evidence that PCBs remain in the environment and can cause harmful health effects that range from skin conditions to cancer led Congress to ban it. So what’s the big catch? Schools aren’t required to test for it. 

And why wouldn’t school officials want to test? Because it’s expensive – especially for public schools that face tight budgets. Looking for costly PCBs to remove is hardly at the top of any principal’s to-do list.

For more on how PCBs first found their way into the environment in the U.S. and what's being done to protect people from PCBs, KPCC's Stephanie O'Neill and WNPR's David DesRoches join Take Two to discuss.  

The two paired up for a documentary from the Center for Investigative Reporting's "Reveal," where they took listeners to the front lines of the outrage – where Malibu parents who were worried that the school district wasn’t doing enough to protect kids and staff have taken the case to court. A teacher who calls herself “Cancer Patient No. 1” told O’Neill her story.

You can listen to the full documentary here and tune in to Reveal every Monday at 9pm on KPCC.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. More details available on the website 



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