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Lighting Retrofits, Schools and PCBs
Schools could be responsible for leaks in their fluorescent lighting ballasts. When replacing ballasts, schools become generators of PCB-containing ballast wastes and could be liable in any potential Superfund cleanup for improper disposal or release to the environment.
 
Most fluorescent light ballasts manufactured before 1979 used capacitors containing PCBs. Sealed inside the capacitor is about a teaspoon of concentrated PCBs. Potting material surrounds the capacitor, which is encased in a ballast box. In 1979, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the further manufacture of equipment containing PCBs. Most ballasts manufactured after 1979 do not contain PCBs and are labeled "Non-PCB."
 
School administrators in Oregon considering a lighting retrofit should know about the potential harm to students and school personnel if existing magnetic lighting ballasts contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). If a school has these fixtures present, or if a lighting retrofit was not done prior to 1979, then it is time to remove and dispose of these highly toxic light fixtures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends removal of these ballasts in schools to prevent accidental exposure to students, teachers and other school personnel.
 
Because PCBs are so toxic, the removal and cleanup of leaks from the light ballasts is dangerous. Incorrect removal and disposal of contaminated magnetic lighting ballasts could result in a large fine from the EPA, up to $100,000. This information is provided to school administrators to help avoid the fine.
 
In 1999, a serious incident occurred at an Oregon school. While undergoing a lighting retrofit, the ballasts were removed in an improper manner and leaked PCB oil all over books, desks and other school equipment. Thankfully, no one was exposed to the harmful chemical, but this incident highlights the importance of having qualified contractors perform the lighting retrofit.
 
School administrators should remember that a postponement of a lighting retrofit only stalls an impending problem. A ballast leak or fire could take place without warning, at any time. If it happens in the middle of a school day, the students and staff could face serious long-term health problems. Cleanup is lengthy and costly.
 
Before any school undertakes a lighting retrofit, especially if PCB-containing light ballasts are involved, the EPA website should be consulted. The EPA´s Energy Star program website, www.energystar.gov provides information on technical assistance, funding and tax credits for lighting projects. For more information about PCB removal and disposal, log onto the EPA´s website at www.epa.gov/pcb.
 
For a more comprehensive explanation about requirements for Oregon schools, please consult wlwv.k12.or.us/operations/heptingc/CRESTMANUAL/ch3PCB.htm
PCB Workshop Info
 
Potential Harm
 
EPA Fines Schools for PCB Violations

Removal and Disposal
 
A Guide for School Maintenance Personnel - Removing PCBs from Light Fixtures
 
A Guide for School Administrators - Removing PCBs from Light Fixtures
 
Handling Light Fixture Ballasts Safely

Finding a Contractor
 
Costs
 
PCBs in Fluorescent Light Fixtures
 
PCB Lighting Ballasts in Schools
 
Mercury in the Classroom
 
Recycling fluorescent lamps and ballasts
 
Thermostat recycling
 
EPA Form 7710-53: Notification of PCB Activity (pdf)
 
Instructions for EPA Form 7710-53:
(pdf)