Sad State of Affairs When Those Tasked to Protect Your Children, Can Only See To Protect Themselves

Dear Parents of Malibu High, Middle and Juan Cabrillo,

By now, many of you are aware of the struggle for our children’s safety in Malibu, between the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the parents who are advocating for transparent, comprehensive testing of our schools. The press release (click here) that went out yesterday revealed independent test results of PCB sources that were acquired from several classrooms on the Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo campuses. These results indicated that the levels of PCBs in caulking at all three of our schools are some of the highest found in the nation. Nine months ago, Sandra Lyon promised to test Juan Cabrillo, yet that was not done. Without the independent test results released this week, MHS and Juan Cabrillo parents would never know the extent of contamination at the schools. 

To put this in perspective (highest interior levels of caulk reported):

  • Juan Cabrillo Room 19: 340,000ppm
  • MHS room 506: 370,000ppm
  • previous (Nov 2013) MHS Library: 1850ppm
  • Lexington, CT: approx. 37,000ppm;
  • P.S.199 Manhattan, NY: wall panel corridor 217,000ppm
  • Brooklyn, NY corridor display case: 440,000ppm

(Click Here to See NYC P.S.199 Pilot Study for PCB
We fully expected the district to try to discredit both these test results and Malibu Unites and PEER’s efforts on behalf of parents and teachers. We expected it to contain the usual messaging from the district, assuring parents that the classrooms are safe and the district is “doing everything it can” and that they are following EPA guidelines to ensure the health and safety of children and teachers. They have tried to depict us as aggressive activists. This is just not true. We are parents, just like you, and there are over 100 of us working on this issue. We love our community, our friends and our teachers and we are working hard to keep all of our children together in Malibu in a healthy, clean and safe learning environment.
The districts July 3rd PCB plan submitted to the EPA that Malibu Unites and PEER are concerned about proposes to leave all PCBs in place for 15 years. This is egregious and we all need to send letters to the EPA and the district stating that the parents of students will not accept our children being exposed to PCBs, especially PCBs that violate federal law, for 15 years. 
Email:  and (please cc:
We have tried for months to cooperatively work with SMMUSD. They will not do proper testing of PCB sources. Yet when it comes time to demo or remodel a building they are required by law to test for PCB sources to ensure they are properly disposed of, so why not do it now and protect the health of students and faculty? 
The way the district currently tests for PCBs is by air and wipe samples, not caulk samples; which is why the district has not identified the high results the independent study revealed. Air and wipe tests will never trigger the federal law of 50ppm (TSCA) because federal law does not have a regulation for air or wipe tests. Most importantly, an air or wipe test only shows us what is happening at the moment the test is taken, not a week or a month or a year from now. PCB sources will continue to emit PCBs into the environment exposing our children and their teachers. It is just how PCBs work.  We have to know the source to control the source, which is why testing the caulk is so important.

Malibu Unites is not dismissing the authority and scientific experts of government agencies as Sandra Lyon stated in her most recent letter to the community. In fact, Malibu Unites President, Jennifer deNicola, was the first person to contact the EPA Region 9 and solicit their assistance, three weeks before Lyon was willing to reach out to them. It was only after Lyon learned that MHS violated federal law, that she was willing to call the EPA. The EPA has stated very clearly that the district (Environ) is directing the testing plans for the schools and the EPA will either approve or disapprove their plans. In many situations the district has not followed EPA guidance (see examples at bottom) which is why Malibu Unites and PEER’s oversight is essential. 
The district has spent about a million dollars on Lawyers rather than $100 per caulk test on approx. 150 classrooms and offices throughout the 3 campuses (including bathrooms and storage rooms). If four tests were done in each room it would only cost $60,000. Then we would know where the sources of PCBs are and we could discuss the best way to remediate, remove or rebuild. Until this source testing is done, we cannot ever be assured our children are not being unnecessarily exposed to toxic PCBs. Testing the caulking could trigger further TSCA violations and we believe that is the reason the district is avoiding caulk testing.

Please click here to see a compiled list health issues related to PCB. 

The independent test results were analyzed at an EPA-approved laboratory using EPA testing method 8082a and went through third-party independent quality control, quality analysis (QAQC) process. This testing and QAQC takes time, but it validates the testing results by multiple independent parties. Malibu Unites and PEER stand behind them. If anyone questions these results, the easy thing to do is test the same caulking in the same room and send it to an EPA approved lab to verify the results. But disputing results, as a PR move, is irresponsible to the health of our children, our teachers and our community. It is disappointing that the district would publicly criticize this information rather than view it as an opportunity to re-evaluate their testing plan and be more protective of the health and safety of our children and teachers. 
Sadly, SMMUSD Board of Education and Superintendent have done very little to test and remediate toxins on our tri-school campus since October 2013, when news of the contamination on campus reached parents and teachers. PCBs in the soil were discovered in 2009— the district has known for four years that they had a PCB contamination issue and failed to warn the parents and teachers; the district failed to find the sources of contamination and rid the schools of PCBs. Federal Law bans PCBs from use, which includes caulk. The district and board members should have tested for sources of the PCBs and the eight other chemicals found in the soil at the time they found them, instead of removing the contaminated soil, and acting as if the toxicants were never there. The district’s current plan—to manage PCBs in place for 15 years and do no further testing and no mitigation—is again avoiding solving the problem. The district has inferred that because many other schools in the country may have a PCB problem that having one is not a big deal. This issue maybe widespread but it is not a reason to leave illegal and unhealthy PCBs in schools exposing children to unnecessary toxicants; and surely not a reason to leave them at our schools.
Please remember as you read the letter from the district that our school district’s ongoing and proven agenda is to put its own liability and finances before the health and safety of students, and ahead of a parent’s right to know about toxins at their child’s school. It is Malibu Unites’ position that all parents have the right to know what their children are being exposed to at school, so that each family can make the decision that is right for them. 
Please know that we will continue to fight for your right to have full information about any contamination on campus so you can make an educated choice about your child’s school environment and the amount of risk your family is willing to assume. Some parents will think the risk is small; others will decide it is too high for their comfort. Both decisions are completely valid. But YOU deserve the right to make an educated choice for yourselves, not to have SMMUSD make it for you.
Respectfully Yours,
The Malibu Unites Team 
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4 Examples of the District Not Following EPA Guidance:
A:  EPA stated that all PCBs over 50ppm must be removed, but the district instead has proposed leaving them in place of 15 years.
B:  EPA sent a letter to Lyon on Jan 27th, 2014  clearly states:
1. Removal of all caulk with known concentrations above 50 ppm PCBs in the library and in Blue Building Rooms 1, 5, and 8. Even though air concentrations are below our health based guidelines, the cleanup plan should include post caulk removal air sampling as well as wipe sampling around the areas where caulk was removed.
2. Mitigation or removal of any caulk that is deteriorating in pre-1979 structures at Malibu High School/Middle School. After mitigation or removal of any caulk, the windowsills and adjacent areas should be thoroughly cleaned. 
However, the district has submitted two plans to the EPA that do not have even these minimum requirements included in their plan. The districts current plan proposes to leave all PCBs, including those in violation of 50ppm in place for 15 YEARS! No mitigation or removal. This is clearly not following EPA protocol or their direction.
C:  EPA told the district in writing on Dec. 20th, to air test with the windows closed, yet the very next day, the district air tested with the windows open.

D: On Dec 19th, 2013, Lyon sent out an email to parents claiming that EPA approved cleaning and testing plan before EPA ever received the plan to review. EPA received the plan on Dec 20th, at 8:58am. EPA issued response at 1:14pm stating windows must be closed. 

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