News Brief

PCBs in Light Fixtures Still Contaminating Schools

Many schools economize by continuing to use older fluorescent light fixtures, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it’s time to replace them. EPA’s new guidance for schools focuses on pre-1979 fluorescent light fixtures containing hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which leak hazardous oil and contaminate air when old ballasts begin to leak. These fixtures also create a fire hazard, since PCB-containing ballasts are there to prevent thermal overload. The ballasts have a useful life of 10 to 15 years; beyond that period, older fluorescent fixtures are much more likely to overheat and catch fire while in use. The guidance recommends a complete survey of fluorescent light fixtures in schools, replacement of any fixtures containing PCBs, and safe disposal of fixtures by EPA-approved companies listed on its website. Schools built before 1979 are at the greatest risk, but PCBs may be present even in fixtures manufactured between 1979 and 1998—and in some cases, older fixtures may have been salvaged and used in newer buildings as well. According to EPA, replacing old fixtures with new, efficient ones not only removes a dangerous toxic substance from children’s learning spaces but also pays for itself through energy savings, usually within a seven-year period. More information is available at


Published January 27, 2011

Paula, M. (2011, January 27). PCBs in Light Fixtures Still Contaminating Schools. Retrieved from

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