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Toxic PCBs: New Information Points to Need for Removal, Long Term Effects

Last month, the EPA issued national guidance recommending that schools take steps to reduce potential exposures to PCBs from older fluorescent lighting fixtures, as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to address potential PCB exposures in schools. And, at the December Hudson River Community Advisory Group meeting, the Department of Health (DOH) made a presentation on new research assessing the toxic impacts of PCBs in older residents living in communities along the Hudson.

The DOH study was conducted in areas outlining Ft. Edward, Hudson Falls and Glens Falls — communities where exposure to GE’s PCBs has been pervasive — and looked at the detrimental effects that PCBs have had over time on nervous system functioning based on blood serum concentration (often caused by the consumption of Hudson River fish as well as indoor and outdoor air PCB levels). Part of what the study shows is that serum PCB concentrations are associated with deficits in verbal memory and more frequent symptoms of depression. Other studies of PCBs and lead demonstrate cognitive and other nervous system effects in older persons, suggesting that older people, much like infants and children, may be particularly susceptible to the health effects of PCBs.

This information closely dovetailed with GE’s announcement that it will opt-in to the Phase 2 PCB cleanup as set forward by the EPA. The cleanup will principally depend on a thorough dredging/removal regime, that Riverkeeper, along with our environmental partners Scenic Hudson, Natural Resources Defense Council, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and all of our members, supporters and concerned community members, fought long and hard for.
The recent government announcements support what we’ve been saying for over 30 years, that the effects of PCBs are problematic, persistent and far reaching and highlight why we should be doing everything we can to get rid of them wherever they are rather than hope they will stay contained.

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