Congressman Lieu Grateful to AU

Congressman Lieu Grateful to AU

State Senator Ted Lieu does a television interview in Torrance. Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze 01/31/14

Washington – Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey’s release of a report on the existence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools.

“The stunning report from Senator Edward Markey on PCBs in schools shows that the EPA and school districts must do far more to address this toxic substance. The EPA and school districts can no longer pretend that if they don’t test for PCBs, somehow this poisonous issue will just go away. Monsanto, which made PCBs, should be ashamed for putting so many children at risk.

“I am grateful that America Unites for Kids and its President Jennifer deNicola have fought tirelessly to ensure that students are not exposed to harmful PCBs. This report, as well as the recent court ruling, vindicates America Unites and demonstrates that preserving the status quo is not an acceptable option for our children.

“It is important that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District swiftly complete its plans to remove PCBs from schools as ordered by the District Court. I also urge EPA to prioritize the issue of PCBs in schools and to work closely with school districts to ensure that the local community is not exposed to dangerous chemicals. I look forward to working with Senator Markey, America Unites and other stakeholders on this critical issue.”

Scientist explains various health effects of PCB exposure

Scientist explains various health effects of PCB exposure
Alex Vejar, Assistant Editor
Malibu Surfside News
10:55 am PST March 8, 2016


A scientist with an extensive background in research regarding polychlorinated biphenyls lectured to a room full of Malibu residents, parents, teachers and officials, explaining in detail the health effects of exposure to the chemical.

David Carpenter, a public health physician, stood at a podium in a classroom of Pepperdine University’s law school on March 1, presenting several slides detailing the chemical makeup of PCBs, how people can be exposed to them what ailments are correlated with exposure to the chemical.

Carpenter focused on the types of PCBs that have a lower number of chlorine atoms, as those types more easily dissolve in water, can be inhaled through the air and can be absorbed through the skin, he said.

“All of those are possible routes to exposure at Malibu schools” Carpenter said.

In his presentation, Carpenter described ailments connected with PCB exposure. An area of focus was the neurotoxic effects of PCBs, which Carpenter said included reduced IQ, shortened attention span, impulsive behavior, poor school performance and an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

He said those effects mirror those caused by exposure to lead, whose use was banned in paint in 1978.

“It’s quite remarkable that these chemicals [that are] very, very different — lead being a metal and PCBs being an organic chemical — they do almost exactly the same things, at least in terms of these effects,” Carpenter said.

When talking about cancer, Carpenter said most of the PCB research conducted most often points three types: melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer. Carpenter also pointed to research that suggests PCBs cause thyroid cancer.

Lisa Lambert, a sixth-grade physical education teacher at Malibu Middle School, spoke about her own thyroid cancer  and Hashimoto’s disease diagnoses and blamed PCBs for that ailment.

“This diagnosis follows years of exposure to high levels of PCBs in my workspace,” Lambert said.

In a response to a question from the audience, Carpenter said students would have been more exposed to PCBs 20 years ago than would be exposed now because the chemicals dissolve into the caulk. However, he said the caulk, which has been in place for 20 years, still contains a high concentration of PCBs. 

“This is not a new issue,” Carpenter said. “That doesn’t mean that now that we know about it, it shouldn’t be dealt with as an immediate issue.”

Carpenter said PCBs with low numbers of chlorine molecules don’t stay in one’s body for long, but added that prolonged exposure due to breathing poses a great risk.

“Nobody can stop breathing,” Carpenter said. “And so even though you can break them down rather rapidly, you’re continuously exposed.”

Carpenter said the use of PCBs in schools ranged from the chemicals being found in window caulking, paint and fluorescent light ballasts. He said all those situations pose a risk.

“What we need to do is get the PCBs out,” Carpenter said. “We need to find out where they’re coming from — whether it’s all from caulk, whether it’s from other sources, whether it’s from paint — and get them out because PCBs in the air are dangerous.”

One audience member, while fighting back tears, asked Carpenter if he would pull his child out of a school that contained PCBs. While Carpenter said that decision would have be made by each individual parent, he did provide an answer.

“If my kids were in those schools, I would be very torn,” Carpenter said.

Both Oscar de la Torre and Malibu resident Craig Foster, members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, attended the lecture and fielded questions from irate members of the audience who demanded an explanation as to why the Board would not fix the PCB problem.

“My position is very clear: I am not fighting the parents,” de la Torre said.

One member of the audience pressed Foster to explain what goes on during the Board’s closed sessions and why the Board “isn’t doing the right thing.”

“How do you explain the unexplainable?” Foster said.

But Foster quickly gave an answer to the audience member’s question.

“It’s like global warming,” Foster said. “Some people say, ‘Oh now, there’s no problem’ and some people say, ‘Yes, there’s a problem.’ The [School Board] members who support the policy, support the legal spending, support the cleaning regiment…believe the narrative that’s provided to them by Environ, that’s provided to them by Pillsbury.”

Foster said any time the issue of changing policies regarding PCB removal comes up with the entire Board, he and de la Torre vote to augment it, while the other five members do not. 

Carpenter made it clear that in this opinion, no concentration of PCBs, however minute, should be tolerated.

“PCBs at any concentration…have no beneficial effect,” Carpenter said. “When I get asked what level of PCBs are safe, I say, ‘zero molecules.’ Any molecule is harmful. The more you have, the more harm.”

SMMUSD’s Calamity of Errors Validates Plaintiff’s PCB Lawsuit

Defendant’s Calamity of Errors Validates Plaintiff’s PCB Lawsuit

SMMUSD remediates wrong classroom but finds 100 times higher than legal limit

New evidence indicates that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District failed to remediate the Malibu High School PE office that tested positive for high levels of PCB contamination in 2014 and mistakenly tested and remediated a completely different office on the opposite side of the building, which incidentally also contained high levels of PCBs.

The PE office that has still not been remediated is located on the South side of the old gym near the outdoor basketball courts and was independently tested in 2014 and found to have PCB levels four times above legal limit. In March 2015, SMMUSD contractors were tasked with retesting all areas that were previously independently tested. After careful examination of their data, the wrong room was tested. Instead, the district’s contractors tested an unused office on the North side of the building, which also proved to have high levels of PCBs. The district then remediated this unused office during the summer of 2015.

The unremediated, contaminated office is used daily by Malibu High School PE faculty, including one of the three original teachers diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Today, a total of five teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, while 14 of 30 middle school teachers, almost 50%, have reported thyroid disease.

In November of 2013, dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls—PCBs, a group of highly toxic chemicals that are documented to be carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, were identified at Malibu High School.

This all unfolded last week when teachers questioned Carry Upton, SMMUSD’s Director, Theater Operations & Facility Permits about his confidence that all PCBs over 50 ppm were removed. According to Carey he was confident they were. Yet when one of the teachers told him that the wrong office was remediated, they claim he looked dumbfounded.

The office that was overlooked by the district’s contractors appears on America Unites’ map of MHS contamination marked in orange, with the notation: 190 ppm.  The map also clearly shows a red star that indicates that a MHS faculty member associated with that specific location has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The empty room the district remediated instead has no special designation on the map.

America Unites for Kids and PEER, two environmental advocacy organizations who have filed a citizen’s suit under the Toxic Substances Control Act against the district for the removal of PCBs over 50 ppm, claim the error, and the subsequent findings that the unoccupied room which was tested by mistake also contained high levels PCBs adds new urgency to America Unites’ call for additional testing and remediation.

“In the district’s calamity of errors, they have proven our legal position for us: like-caulking in the same building will also have high levels of PCBs and therefore all like-caulking in the building is in violation of Federal law and must be removed,” said Attorney Charles Avrith of Naglar & Associates who is representing America Unites for Kids and PEER in a Federal lawsuit filed against SMMUSD under the Toxic Substances Control Act for illegal use of PCBs. “Contrary to what the District contends, there is no standard practice that every inch of caulk needs to be tested or verified by the district to be an illegal use. A standard like that would be unreasonable.”

SMMUSD tested the soil for PCBs and other chemicals in both 2009 and again in 2014 under supervision from the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substance Control and used a representative sampling plan to determine the extent of PCB contamination that required removal. When the district tested for PCBs at Santa Monica High School and Olympic High School in the spring of 2015, they also used a representative sampling plan to determine the PCB content of different building materials, according to the District’s “Final Olympic PCB Inspection Report” found on their website,

“In general, Ramboll Environ considered materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture as homogeneous.”

This same representative sampling technique used at the Santa Monica High Schools is what America Unites for Kids and PEER have been advocating for over the past two years. They claim based on the caulk testing they and the district have done to date, all materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture also have illegal levels of PCBs and require removal under Federal law. This matter is currently playing out in Federal Court and is set to go to trial May 17th, 2016. This case can set precedent to properly identify and remove illegal and unsafe PCBs from all schools.

incorrect PE rooms remediated

Malibu Real Estate Warns Buyers of PCB Contamination in Schools

PCB contamination at Malibu schools is now part of the Malibu Association of Realtors newest disclosure requirements.The latest version of the Malibu-Topanga Disclosure Addendum, which went into effect on Sept. 2, 2015, is intended to let prospective buyers know about local issues. This disclosure reads:

Some Malibu Schools (Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Malibu Middle School, and Malibu High School) have been determined to contain Polychlorinated biphenyl (“PCB”), a known carcinogen, in caulking and other building materials. Environmental assessments are ongoing. Buyer is encouraged to investigate and determine whether he considers the use of said materials a potential health hazard prior to close of escrow.”

Given the undisputed toxic hazards of PCBs to children’s health, this addendum makes it evident that PCBs also have the potential to affect other aspects of the community, including real estate.

The Malibu school contamination issue has plagued the Malibu community since October 2013, when dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were uncovered at the three Malibu public schools. Two years later, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officials have spent a reported $6.5 million on legal fees and consultants rather than the estimated $600,000-$800,000 it would have cost to remove all the caulking, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the grassroots Malibu-based environmental watchdog organization America Unites for Kids.

America Unites President Jennifer deNicola says, “This addendum has become necessary because for two years, SMMUSD has acted irresponsibly. The PCB issue could still be quickly and completely resolved if the SMMUSD would commit to a program of testing and proper removal.”

The battle over testing and remediation has caused dozens of Malibu families to choose alternative schooling options for their children rather than risk exposure to a toxin known to cause cancer and other serious health issues. Since 2013, it has been reported that five teachers and three alumni from these Malibu Schools have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 14 teachers and six alumni have thyroid disease. This summer, four more teachers reported being diagnosed with thyroid issues, including potentially cancerous nodules.

“SMMUSD’s continued refusal to test the caulking in all classrooms is really an admission of guilt,” deNicola said. “District officials know that testing will reveal high levels of PCBs, requiring removal. But most importantly, PCBs are a clear and dangerous threat to human health. By deliberately avoiding this testing, the district is willfully endangering children and teachers.”



On Saturday, Aug. 22nd, 2015, even after hundreds of emails and phone calls requesting not to use rodenticides on the Malibu Schools, Superintendent Sandra Lyon made the final decision to spread more poisons at Malibu High, Juan Cabrillo and Webster.The two poisons chosen by SMMUSD are strychnine and Fumitoxin. Strychnine is an example of a very dangerous and unpopular poison making a comeback. Strychnine has NO antidote and acts very quickly. Thus, it is especially dangerous.

The EPA has placed Fumitoxin in its highest toxicity category, “Category 1 Danger.”  “Danger” means that the pesticide product is highly toxic if eaten, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled. The compound converts to a deadly phosphine gas when it comes in contact with moisture. The application manual for Fumitoxins clearly states that there should be no entrance to treated areas for a minimum of 3 days but based on the climate in Malibu, the recommendation is 4-5 days. Yet, Lyon told AYSO families and parents that come Monday, Aug 24th, 48 hours after applying Fumitoxin, that it was safe. This is clearly incorrect and once again she is putting children in harms way. For their safety, please keep your kids off the fields at these schools.

From a Webster Parent stated based on the table in the Fumitoxin manual: “Tonight it will be 63 degrees, so a 96 hour/4 day minimum is required. A week from tomorrow is the second safest play.  Number 1 safest play is to attend a school that doesn’t use poisons.”

February 12, 2014, the Department of Pesticide Regulation cited SMMUSD for improper notification and use of pesticides. But Lyon’s actions this week show she did’t learn much despite her response in the Santa Monica Daily Press in 2014, “We will look for responsible ways to balance the range of requests from toxin-free to pest-free, including insects and rodents,” she said. “Our goal will be to find a healthy balance.” Clearly, she didn’t mean what she said.

Another parent stated in an email, “It sucks to have to say you can’t trust the SMMUSD, but transparency and common sense, especially when it comes to Malibu, have been non-existant.”

Poison Free Malibu Organization wrote to Lyon last week, “We have suggested viable and safe Integrated Pest Management (“IPM”) recommendations and experts to execute these recommendations. The strategy is based on Clean Up, Seal Up, and Trap Up. By using these techniques consistently, rodents can be controlled without poisons.”

A CA Licensed Pest control owner/operator added, “I will attest that I have toured the Campus and in my determination as an Agricultural Specialist, that IPM protocols were not implemented at MHS…I offered to begin implementing at no cost to the district, and my offer was ignored.”

In a letter from America Unites (AU) urged Lyon to not use rodenticides and instead use the one of the two free IPM options provided to the district by generous experts. AU wrote, “Carefully consider the health and safety of the school children and the environment in which they live when making your decisions and please respect the wishes of the city and its occupants to not use rodenticides, as your actions on the school property have implications throughout Malibu as well as the ESHAs abutting the school property.”
John Sibert, Mayor of Malibu wrote, “Sandy, Let me add my voice to a number of other Malibuites regarding the proposed use of fumigants and poisons on the  fields at MHS.  As you well know, the City Council unanimously supported a statement against the use of rodenticides and other poisons for pest control in the City…The City has also ended their use on our City-owned property…To have the School District ignore these efforts and plan an extensive fumigation and poison program on the MHS fields, particularly during the school year when they are in use, is extremely disturbing.  I hope you would hold off on this and consider other alternatives.”
After application of rodenticides, residents witnessed at MHS, a beautiful hawk sitting at the edge of a gophers hole monitoring the situation and stated, “Let us rely on this natural methods of gopher control.”
Another MHS parent wrote to Lyon, “I have to say, I was shocked that you moved forward with this unnecessary and toxic approach to dealing with a few gopher holes…. You had so many other options presented and available to you and so many community requests over this past week and even well prior to that asking you take a non-toxic and different approach.  Truthfully, it feels as though you run this school district like a dictatorship, not a democracy.  This is very disappointing and very wrong.”A Webster parent wrote, “There are quite a few of us that will not be sending our kids tomorrow to Webster, as the cafeteria is less than 100 feet from the fields. From the information that has been shared with us in regard to these chemicals and Webster emailing all the parents NOT to meet on the blacktop tomorrow morning, means there is concern. It’s irresponsible to have done what they done.”
Another MHS/JC parent stated, “The School Board must put a stop to poisoning and endangering students and wildlife on and adjacent to the campus until all IPM strategies are completely exhausted.”

A community member wrote, “I’m not sure why a jump backwards and going back to a poisoning routine is being implemented, but it’s completely an unethical stroke on the community.”

A MHS parents wrote to Lyon, “After the ongoing PCB fiasco and your very incomplete, piecemeal and expensive approach to it,  and now this, I have to wonder where is the oversight over your decisions and actions?  Who are you accountable to if not your constituents?  Why do you never take the approach of taking the utmost and highest precaution in protecting children, teachers and staff and now it seems you could care less about wildlife in our community as well.”
There were so many letters from Malibu City Council Members, prominent pesticide organizations, community members, parents, students, board members but Lyon ignored them all. Good question, MHS parent, Who does Lyon report to? 

Click Here for the Fumitoxin manual: (tablets were used not pellets)

Parents continue to push for caulk testing at Malibu schools

Malibu parents pleaded with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District on Thursday to test the source of toxic substances found at Malibu High School.

Thursday’s board meeting was the latest in months of protests by parents – including supermodel Cindy Crawford and “Scandal” actor Josh Malina – asking the district to test window caulking in older buildings. Polychlorinated biphenyls were found in the caulking of four buildings, and elevated levels of PCBs were found in the air and dust of five others.

PCBs – found in structures built from the 1950s until they were banned by the federal government in 1979 – can cause cancer and damage the reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An investigation began after teachers sent a letter to the school district, concerned that many of their co-workers had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Earlier this month, the Malibu City Council – which has no control over the schools – drafted a resolution asking the district to remove the caulk.

Malibu Mayor Skylar Peak kicked off about two hours of public comments at Thursday’s meeting, saying the district has “fallen short in its efforts” to address concerns – not just of parents, but also of staff. The City Council called on the school district to test the caulk in the classrooms, he said.

The district has said repeatedly that its classrooms are safe. The EPA has said that if PCB levels in the air or dust are below a certain threshold, it’s not necessary to test the caulk. If PCBs are found above that level, schools are instructed to continually clean the rooms where they are found until the measurements are at a passable mark.

Parents question whether air and dust samplings – which can vary because of environmental changes – are a fair-risk assessment.

But the source of contention for many is that previous testing determined that some of the caulk should be removed. Last year, the district randomly tested about 10 classrooms, and four showed PCBs above the legal limit, which meant the caulk had to be removed. The district then began consulting with the EPA, which told Santa Monica-Malibu Unified it did not need to test the caulk.

“It’s not the presence that’s the problem; it’s the exposure,” district spokeswoman Valerie Martinez said earlier this week. “As long as they’re coming up below those standards … then the buildings are safe, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.”

Crawford has offered to pay for testing the caulk. Law firm Baron and Budd, which currently represents a school in Massachusetts in a lawsuit against PCB-maker Monsanto, is offering free testing to all U.S. public schools. The district hasn’t accepted either of these offers.

PEER, a public employee advocacy group, recently added fuel to the fire when it revealed the group had taken caulk samples from the high school and had them tested. The group said results showed that one classroom could be the most PCB-contaminated room in the U.S.

The district said PEER gathered its samples surreptitiously and it hasn’t replicated the testing, while the EPA says it is reviewing PEER’s results.

Parent group Malibu Unites and PEER plan to file a lawsuit against the district in 30 days.

“I don’t know why you guys are worried about protecting your own liability. … Stop it. Protect our kids,” Jennifer deNicola of Malibu Unites told the school board. “That is your job.”

Board President Maria Leon-Vazquez requested that Environ – which is contracted to carry out environmental work at the high school – organize a community meeting in Malibu.

When asked earlier this week what the district had to lose by testing the caulk – if only for parents’ peace of mind – Santa Monica-Malibu Unified said it’s just following the EPA’s lead.

Contact the writer:

Original article published by Los Angeles Register.

Nonprofit discusses cleanup at MHS

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
6:18 pm PDT May 9, 2014


Malibu Unites, a Malibu based nonprofit focusing on the heath of Malibu’s public schools, hosted a town hall meeting at Duke’s Malibu on Thursday, May 1, to discuss the ongoing situation regarding PCBs at Malibu High School.

The meeting introduced a board of experts who each shared their experiences dealing with PCBs, pesticides and toxicants, and were available to address questions from the crowd of a few dozen.

Experts included Penny Newman, executive director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Christina Georgio, staff attorney for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Nauchman Brautbar, an MD certified in internal medicine, nephrology and forensic medicine with a specialization in medical toxicology and Kurt Fehling, the Malibu Unites independent expert team leader.

“Having your own experts is critical,” Newman said. “It keeps people honest.”

Newman was the PTA president of Stringfellow Elementary School when she and other teachers, staff and parents at the school found out about the ongoing contamination of the school and surrounding neighborhood from the nearby Stringfellow acid pits. Through her work, she eventually got Stringfellow listed as one of California’s top priority superfund sites for cleanup.

“When I found out about the decisions that were being made about my children without my input, I was furious,” she said. “We not only have the right to know, we have the responsibility to know.”

Newman applauded Jennifer DeNicola, president and founder of Malibu Unites, and the rest of the organization’s team and supporters, in their efforts to involve themselves in the process of discovery and cleanup of PCBs and toxicants recently found on the Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School campuses. The group hopes to work with the EPA, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the District’s environmental consulting firm for the cleanup project, Environ, to make the process transparent, according to DeNicola.

“At times you have to challenge [the DTSC], but when they’re doing the right thing you have to applaud them,” Newman said.

Georgio, who has spent most of her career working to correct the problem of pollutants in New York City public schools, said methods that would never be considered in New York, due to the sheer size of the District, can more easily be implemented in a community like Malibu.

“I’m the monitor with regard to what New York City is doing to remediate their schools,” Georgio said. “New York is still figuring it out — it does not know what it’s doing. It seems to me that starting over should be a considered option [in Malibu].”

Fehling spoke about his experiences conducting human health risk assessments for occupational and residential populations exposed to contaminants, citing Environ’s plan for remediation at the  MHS campus, “wholly inadequate.”

“We need to prompt them to look at a more holistic approach [to cleanup],” Fehling said.

For more information on Malibu Unites, or to donate to the nonprofit, visit

Press Release 4-1-14 Pesticide Violation

Press Release 4-1-14 Pesticide Violation

For Immediate Release April 1, 2014

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Cited for Pesticide Violations


Malibu, April 1, 2014—The State of California’s Environmental Protection Bureau Pesticide Regulation Division had issued a notice of violation to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) for non-compliance with required public notification of pesticides use.  These violations were brought to light by Malibu Unites, a non-profit coalition of parents, teachers, students and environmental experts.

Malibu Unites President Jennifer deNicola today sent a letter to the district requesting immediate compliance with the Healthy Schools Act and swift creation and implementation of an environmentally responsible pesticide management plan for all campuses in SMMUSD. Malibu Unites has also requested that the district adopt a Precautionary Principal Policy that would further protect students and apply caution in pesticide-related decision-making. Malibu Unites offered assistance from its Advisory Council experts to design such a plan.

In its notice of violation of March 12, 2014, Patrick Duggan of the California Pesticide Regulation Division wrote to Superintendent Sandra Lyon that the district was in violation of the Healthy Schools Act requirements covered in the Education Code as well as California Code of Regulation Title 3 Section 6618 and that:

“The operator of property (the district) shall assure that notice is given to all persons who are on the property to be treated, or who may enter during the application or the period of time that any restrictions on entry are in effect….”

Malibu Unites believes that the district has not complied with the Healthy Schools Act since it became a law in 2000.

When parents from Malibu Unites presented the violation at the SMMUSD board meeting on March 20th, none of the board members appeared to be aware of the violation, despite the Superintendent having received the violation notice one-week prior.

At issue is the district’s use of fumitoxin, strychnine, and diphacinone — all highly dangerous rodenticides — and other pesticides applied on all four Malibu school campuses every Saturday morning, a day when sports fields are in high use.  Photos provided to Malibu Unites (see below) show rodenticide pellets were not applied as directed on the label – i.e. underground in rodent burrows — but instead sprinkled all over the sports fields, thus putting anyone who entered the application site in potential harm’s way.

Pesticide Photo jpgFumitoxin carries a label that reads, “Keep out of reach of children…due to high acute inhalation toxicity of phosphine gas.” Mild inhalation exposure may take up to 24 hours to appear, causing an indefinite feeling of sickness, ringing in the ears, fatigue, and nausea. Moderate poisoning can cause weakness, vomiting, pain above stomach, chest pain, difficulty breathing. Severe poisoning may occur with a few hours to several days and result in pulmonary edema and may also lead to dizziness, cyanosis, unconsciousness and death.    Strychnine is a convulsive poison which can be fatal is swallowed or inhaled.  Diphacinone is an anti-coagulant which is highly toxic and causes internal hemorrhaging.  EPA is in the process of taking products for home use containing diphacinone off the market unless they are in tamper-proof bait stations.  All of these rodenticides also pose serious risks to pets and wildlife.

Despite the City of Malibu’s joint-use agreement with the district, SMMUSD did not inform the City about the use of these rodenticides nor that they were applied hours before children played sports on the fields.  Each Saturday from September to January, AYSO (soccer) uses the Malibu High School (MHS) sports fields. After learning about the district’s violation and use of rodenticides, the City of Malibu immediately contacted the district to cease the use of these pesticides. The Boys and Girls Club on the MHS campus also reported not having been notified of rodenticide applications. The City of Santa Monica also has a joint-use agreement and was contacted about the violation for use of pesticides.

Dana Friedman, a Malibu parent stated, “I cannot believe the district would so carelessly apply pesticides on the grounds at our schools. The district consistently fails to inform parents about important issues that affect the health of our children. They have shown us they can not be trusted with our children’s safety.”

MHS is currently dealing with another contamination issue of pesticide and PCB-laced soil on campus.  When it was first discovered in 2009, the district did not notify parents or teachers about these toxins identified by a contractor “at concentrations that presented an unacceptable health risk.” In 2011, an estimated 1158 tons of contaminated soil were removed during summer school sessions. No warning was issued to parents, teachers, or staff about toxic soil removal or possible exposure while attending summer school.

In Paramus, New Jersey, a similar case occurred when toxic pesticides similar to those found at MHS were detected in the soil of a middle school, and the Paramus School District failed to notify parents for four months. Once the City of Paramus found out, the district Superintendent was put on an extended leave of absence and resigned two months later. This case involved forty tons of soil. The Malibu remediation project involved 1158 tons of soil and failed to notify parent for 4 years.


Read the Malibu Unites letter to SMMUSD

See the pesticide violations

View the Fumitoxin label warnings

Malibu Unites is working to ensure that all Malibu schools are healthy, clean and toxic-free for students and those who educate them. You can read more about the issues at MHS at

Parents Want Independent Expert for Malibu High Testing

Parents criticize school district for dragging feet, lack of transparency.

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 7:30 am

By Knowles Adkisson

Roughly 50 Malibu High School parents and students representing a new advocacy organization scolded the Santa Monica-Malibu board of education (BOE) last week for taking too much time to test for toxins on the school’s campus, and demanded a role in the testing. la weekly crowd

The group, called Malibu Unites, said the district’s response since the presence of toxins were revealed in October had engendered distrust in the Malibu community, and requested that an independent expert be hired to verify testing results.

“We will never be able to remove the cloud of suspicion and concern that surrounds the campus unless people trust the results of the testing and the people trust the results of the remediation [cleanup],” said Malibu Unites President Jennifer DeNicola, a mother of two children. “The district cannot expect to achieve this trust unless the testing and the remediation are done timely, transparently and are verifiable.”

PCBs, lead and other toxins were discovered in the Malibu Middle School quad during an environmental review of the campus in 2010, but the district did not widely inform parents of remediation work performed in 2011 to remove the contaminated soil. Some teachers at the campus believe the toxins may be responsible for a series of health issues among the staff, including several cases of thyroid cancer.

The issue of communication between the BOE, which consists of Santa Monica residents, and the Malibu community, was brought up several times, including by Malibu City Councilman John Sibert. Boardmembers defended the district’s response to findings of elevated toxins on campus, arguing that continued emails to parents from Supt. Sandra Lyon and updates on the high school website had kept parents informed.

“We’re a little bit baffled about what suggestions you might have about communications, because I do think our superintendent has been doing her best about communication,” Boardmember Laurie Lieberman told Sibert. “[She has] been putting out weekly updates.”

Sibert suggested sharing the latest information about the testing process on the City of Malibu’s website, and several boardmembers said the city could easily take information from its own website.

They also said making sure testing met standards from state and local government agencies explained why contaminated soils had not yet been tested after health concerns raised by some MHS teachers were first made public in early October.

The district conducted air testing of classrooms over winter break in the main middle school building, through previous consultant the Phylmar Group, but has yet to test soil on the campus. It plans to have the soil tested by Environ, an environmental consultant hired after the district parted ways with Phylmar, and the state’s Department of Toxic Substances (DTSC) as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are also involved.

In a prepared statement before public comment, Lyon said the district continues to hear a “lot of criticism about reporting and communication that was done during initial investigations.”

However, she said that while she knows “how frustrated everyone is,” working with both Environ, state and federal authorities, “we can’t be [both] quick and thorough.”

DeNicola requested the district hire an independent environmental expert, chosen by Malibu Unites, who would work alongside Environ, the EPA and the DTSC. The contractor would be granted access to all environmental reports, raw data and input on testing protocol. DeNicola also requested the district expand its scope to include tests for air, soil, water and dust testing at the campuses of Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, Malibu High School and Malibu Middle School.

When Boardmember Oscar de la Torre asked DeNicola if she was requesting the district pay for the independent expert and the extra testing, DeNicola responded that “we have a couple of different choices, but what we’re asking is that you set aside funds.”

Later, de la Torre also asked Malibu City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who spoke on the issue, to comment on whether the City of Malibu would be willing to contribute funds toward the independent expert.

“I would need to look at that,” Rosenthal responded. “I know the parents, always open to looking at that and vetting that at the city council level.”


District, parents clash over transparency

Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
1:46 pm PDT March 24, 2014la weekly crowd

Communication, trust and transparency became central themes during the public comment portion of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education Meeting on Thursday, March 20, at Malibu City Hall.
The Malibu City Council Chambers filled near its capacity with Malibu residents concerned about the District’s handling of the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination affecting Malibu schools.
More than two hours were devoted to discussing the issue, although it was not on the Board’s agenda for that night.
The contention resulting from the issue has strained, if not tainted, relations between Malibu parents and the District. In the past, Malibu residents have criticized the District’s handling of the issue in terms of lacking in proper communication and transparency, as well as the scope of testing proposed to be performed.
“The keys to success are full-scale testing, full transparency and real-time communication,” said Matt DeNicola, a Malibu parent, during his public comment time. “This is 2014: I can find out when the bus isn’t going to be on time, but I can’t figure what’s going on with the high school toxin
DeNicola also criticized the District’s spending of $500,000 on the issue, saying, “we are in no better place than we were in October of 2013.”
To date, the District has entered into an agreement with environmental engineering firm Environ International Corporation to develop a testing and cleanup plan, under the oversight of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, but a plan or timeline has yet to be developed.
“I’m talking to Environ about getting that plan done and we are working with the EPA and the DTSC, so please know that if we could test right now and have a plan, we would do it,” SMMUSD superintendent Sandra Lyon said. “One of the things we’ve heard from the community is to make sure it’s thorough, and we are doing that.”
Jennifer DeNicola – who served as a parent representative on the Malibu Schools Environmental Task Force that originally investigated the PCB contamination issue at Malibu High School – criticized what she said was the District’s lack of urgency regarding the issue.
“It took them about two months to make a contract, [with Environ] and that’s two months of our kids and teachers going to school and nothing getting done,” she said. “I’m upset about the timeline and the fact that there’s no transparency or sense of urgency.”
Jennifer also used her public comment time to convey that Malibu Unites, a newly formed nonprofit advocacy group, wished to hire its own third-party remediation contractor that would work with the District, Environ and the DTSC to assist in the planning, testing and cleanup procedures.
It’s a move that Jennifer said could rebuild lost trust between parents and the District by ensuring the accuracy and diligence of testing and cleanup. “The only way [the District] can rebuild trust is to get an independent expert that represents the parents and teachers,” Jennifer said. “Having somebody that is advocating for our position, to ensure everything is done accurately and it’s done properly and comprehensively is vital to building trust and knowing our schools are safe.”
Board member Laurie Lieberman – defending Lyon and the District – said parents, a teacher and a scientist working for the City of Malibu were included in the interview panel that selected Environ, and said she felt claims of a lack of transparency were without merit.
“This was a very transparent process, and the group came to an agreement to hire this particular firm [Environ],” Lieberman said. “I want you all to be reassured that the process has been transparent and the concerns about that, I think, shouldn’t exist and are somewhat disingenuous.”
Lieberman also called for an end to “allegations of conspiracy and incompetence” directed at Lyon and the District, which she said are “unfounded and border on slanderous and libelous . . . they’re simply not getting us anywhere and aren’t helping us create a transparent, collaborative and communicative process.”
Lieberman, however, suggested the District review its communication processes, especially in terms of how it reacts to toxic contamination issues that may arise at its other schools. “While we have followed policy here and have followed what is required in the state . . . I think we should at least look at and examine those requirements and see if we should have some other kind of requirements for notification,” she said.