Workplace exposures Cancer Educational Guidance

EPA: Outdated lights in schools may be leaking toxic chemical

New York – As part of an effort to reduce potential exposure to a toxic chemical found in some older fluorescent light ballasts in schools, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued guidance on the proper maintenance and management of the ballasts.

Prior to EPA banning their use in 1979, polychlorinated biphenyls were commonly used in ballasts. PCBs have been shown to affect the immune, reproductive and nervous systems, and may cause cancer.

According to EPA, most PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts in schools have exceeded their life span. More than 150 incidents of leaking or smoking ballasts in New Jersey and New York schools have been reported to EPA during the past 15 months.

Leaking ballasts can release PCBs into the air for several years, which can lead to elevated PCB levels in the air that students, teachers and other school workers breathe, EPA stated in a press release.