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City labels Cardozo toxic school

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An investigation by the city School Construction Authority has discovered that Bayside’s Benjamin Cardozo High School is one of 19 public schools with toxin levels exceeding acceptable city limits, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Education said.

The authority, which investigates potential soil contamination following exterior renovation projects, found that Cardozo and 18 other schools in the five boroughs had polychlorinated biphenyls in the window caulking, DOE spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said. A total of 77 city schools that had completed renovations within the last year were tested, she said.

The investigation determined that Cardozo, at 57−00 223rd St. in Bayside, had PCB concentrations greater than the allowed 50 parts per million, the DOE said. Renovation work has been completed at eight of the 19 schools and soil remediation will be required at 15 of them, including Cardozo.

“It’s frightening that the Department of Education has such a callous attitude about the safety of our students,” City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) said. “They are cleaning up the soil, but allowing the caulk to continue to exist. It’s a real disgrace.”

The DOE follows federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines on PCBs, Feinberg said.

“Of course, there’s a concern when carcinogens are being released not only at schools, but at any building,” said Rob Caloras, president of Community District Education Council 26. “There should be efforts to alleviate (the PCBs).”

In March, mother and teacher’s aide Naomi Gonzalez filed a notice to sue the DOE and the SCA on the grounds that PS 178 in the Bronx, which her two children attend, contains window caulking that is contaminated with PCBs. The suit is being handled by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

PCBs are odorless and tasteless organic chemicals that form through the electrophilic chlorination of biphenyl with chlorine gas. Health effects from exposure to them can include chloracne, rashes, liver damage, fatigue, headache, cough and skin sores.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the manufacturing of PCBs in 1978. Sites built prior to the ban that contain the chemicals are regulated by the agency for acceptable PCB levels.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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