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Officials Address Concerns about PCBs at Osborn Hill

Representatives from state and federal agencies think long-term health effects from exposure are unlikely.

Weeks of concerns and questions surrounding at culminated Wednesday in an information forum held by school officials and representatives from multiple state and federal agencies.

Fifty to 60 parents and citizens came to the first of two forums held in the gym of , where officials addressed the issue and answered questions.

The main concern with parents appeared to be how exposure to PCBs -- a mixture of chemicals that have been used as coolants and lubricants for electrical equipment -- .

While PCBs are classified as probable carcinogens to humans, the levels found at Osborn Hill (the highest were found in the gym) will unlikely cause adverse short-term or long-term effects, according to Brian Toal, a representative from the state Department of Health.

That's because the levels of PCBs found ins Osborn Hill School are "209 times below" the rate that the Environmental Protection Agency would consider harmful to humans, Toal said.  

People are exposed to PCBs in the air every day, so the levels the students were exposed to were only slightly more than their "background," daily exposure, he added.

Still, Toal and all the officials present at the forum acknowledged the elevated levels of PCBs are "not a good thing, and we can work to get the levels down."

"We can control exposure at Osborn Hill School for the future," Toal said.

Currently, the gym -- considered the primary source of PCBs -- is sealed off while specialists work on cleaning the rest of the affected areas.

Sealing the gym has helped lower the rates in classrooms and corridors, according to Jason Pringle of the testing firm AMC Environmental. But officials still don't know whether the rest of Osborn Hill School will be ready to open for the first day of school -- Aug. 30.

If it's not ready, students in kindergarten through third grade will go to Holy Family School on Stratfield. Fourth and fifth grade students will go to St. Emory's School. The district is planning on providing bussing, lunch, and all the usual programming at those schools while Osborn Hill is still closed.

Officials hope the time spent in the separate schools will be short, but they said it was hard to tell how long the gym would be sealed off.

Should students start the school year at Osborn Hill or relocate back at some point in the next few months, school officials have alternate plans for physical education time. In good weather it can be held outside, and the district is also looking into a portable classroom or a tented gym, Arnone said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. David G. Title said the decision on whether to open Osborn Hill for Aug. 30 depends on the results that come back once a round of specialized cleaning is finished. The decision will have to be made by Aug. 24, he said.

If the school can't open, Arnone assured parents that officials would do all they can to maintain a community feel for students, staff, and parents.

"There are all kinds of things we would be sharing to maintain a community feel for our students," Arnone said.

Osborn Hiller August 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I would bet by the end of this process, that the existing gym ends up being knocked down. I'm not counting on the school having a dedicated gym for a very long time.
Joeseph Biff August 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I would bet there are some who want to knock the entire school down.
JohnnyA August 16, 2012 at 01:10 PM
What about children who WENT to OHS? Both my kids went through K-5 as recent as 3 years ago. Did the forum address long term effects on past students?
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
They did address that -- the risks are the same -- minimal. Brian Toal, the state health department official, said that if there are ~523 students in the school and they spend about 6 years there, the risk of any one student developing a cancer is .00053 percent. The general risk for this type of situation is two to three children in a million, according to Toal.
Jim Eastwood August 17, 2012 at 02:11 AM
To All Please read the article You and yur kids have a HIGHER risk riding in your car from PVC(Poly Vinyl Choride Ie Platic Vapors) a Higher risk from a Clean Bathroom (Clhorine vapors) From cooking 3 PPM CO going to Walmart(Same fireproofing) watching TV or using computers(Plastic) so I guess we don't have an issue here--Listen to what the experts say. What Dr. Titleeeds to do is to inspect each school before it opens--just like the FD does. Parents Calm Down--we don't need anothjer school project !!\ Use some commonn sense here --Just think what your parents were exposed to--they survived !!!! How about you in your Office ?? The Kids have More risk getting hurt from a Mom driving a SUV while on the cell phone than this school !!!! A correctable issue and NOT a Major one !!! Have a Great Day and Let's AVOID the Pay and Pay !!
Fairfield Resident August 17, 2012 at 03:04 AM
More helicopter parents freaking out over a non-issue.
Brian August 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Resident, If it was in your office, would it be an issue?
Amos Waterman August 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Grasmere Eldercare Center just got new windows....Seems to me the seniors of this town don't need to burden the town with such expenses. ...and that senior center....is that really necessary?
iamspartacus August 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM
let them drop off the fireproofing at your house, that would save money
iamspartacus August 17, 2012 at 06:12 PM
its only a carciogen, not something really dangerous like stepping over a snow pile at the train station

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