Early testing reveals high toxic chemical levels at Malibu High School

Preliminary testing at Malibu High School has uncovered toxic chemicals at levels that exceed regulatory limits, according to a statement released Friday by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The findings trigger what could be a “very large, very expensive” remediation plan in which the district will have to conduct additional testing and ultimately clean up the chemicals, district Supt. Sandra Lyon said. That potentially years-long process will be overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she added.


Read More at: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/22/local/la-me-1123-malibu-high-20131123

Malibu High samples exceed federal standards

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) — The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District verbally informed the EPA Wednesday that some caulk samples at Malibu High School were found to contain PCB levels above 50 parts per million, an EPA representative confirmed to Eyewitness News Thursday night.

Caulk with PCBs above 50 ppm is not authorized for use under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

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Malibu Parents Seek Second Opinion On Possible Contaminants

Parents of Malibu High School are seeking a second opinion after school officials said last Friday that classrooms tested for mold showed normal results.

On Wednesday night, they got advice from Paul Rosenfeld of the Santa Monica firm Soil Water / Air Protection Enterprise.

“I think that they want to make sure that they’re given the whole truth,” Rosenfeld said. “Our goal is to investigate where the contaminant came from.”

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Panic in paradise: Malibu high school community shaken by cancer fears

It seemed as if poison and panic had seeped into paradise. “My children are terrified,” Beth Lucas told a hushed auditorium of about 300 parents. “Raise your hands if your kids have had migraines.”

A pause, then dozens of hands went up. Everyone looked at each other. Eyes widened. “Oh my God,” murmured a voice. An alleged contamination appeared to have claimed more victims than anyone had imagined.

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California High School Moves Classes Over Cancer Fears

School officials in Malibu, Calif., have decided to move some classes after complaints that teachers’ recent cancer diagnoses and other health problems may have been brought on by toxins on campus.

“While the alleged health concerns have absolutely no proven connection to our campus, in an abundance of caution and to allay all fears, we are temporarily relocating staff and students,” Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent Sandra Lyon said today at a meeting with parents, students and staff.

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Malibu teachers allege cancer, illnesses linked to school

Illnesses including cancer, headaches, rashes and unexplained hair loss among teachers at a California high school have prompted the school district to bring in environmental testers.

A group of teachers believes a 2011 construction project helped lead to the illnesses that they believe affect up to one-third of the staff at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif., CBS Los Angeles reported.

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Malibu High School’s Campus Causing Cancer? Teachers Band Together In Letter To Admins

The Huffington Post  |  By 

Posted: 10/07/2013 6:07 pm EDT

The safety of a Southern California public school campus is under scrutiny after twenty-one teachers raised concerns about the recent cluster of cancer diagnoses, thyroid problems and other illnesses that are plaguing staff.

In a letter signed by about one-third of Malibu High and Middle School’s teaching staff (the two schools share a campus in Malibu, Calif.), employees who worked in Buildings E, F and I for the past five years say they are suffering from conditions like thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, migraines, skin rashes or hair loss. Three teachers have been diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer in the past six months, while one teacher was diagnosed and treated for bladder cancer two years ago. The letter was first reported on by City News Service Sunday and is available at the bottom of this story via The Malibu Times.

Some of the conditions, like migraines or rashes, seem to disappear or significantly lessen during summer vacation, or when teachers are moved to other parts of campus, explains the letter. The letter also suggests that mold, lack of ventilation and air-borne chemicals on campus could be to blame.

The teachers ended the letter by calling upon school administrators to set dates to test the buildings and campus surroundings for mold, asbestos, rat feces and radioactive chemicals, to name a few contaminants.

School parent Hope Edelman first learned about the issue during a brief Sunday evening robo-call from Superintendent Sandra Lyon of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district (SMMUSD). She then took to Facebook, where other parents had posted Malibu Patch’s City News Service article and were discussing whether or not to send their children to school on Monday.

Edelman decided that, for her, there was not yet enough evidence that justified keeping her two daughters home from middle school and high school — despite the fact the buildings named in the letter affected the middle school.

“I don’t want to fuel the panic,” said Edelman in a phone interview with HuffPost. “But I do think the teachers’ concerns need to be taken very seriously. Three [diagnoses] of cancer in the past six months should be taken seriously.”

In the letter, the teachers demanded to see a soil report conducted on a middle school quad that was completed about three years ago. According to City News Service, the 2010 report revealed that there was “tainted” soil on school grounds, which the school eventually hauled away in a “hazmat-style operation” during the summer of 2011. CNS has more:

According to construction plans published in 2010, tainted soil tested at a “total hazard index” of 2, which was significantly above the target index of 1. After the 1,017 cubic yards of tainted dirt was to be hauled out, the target hazard index was predicted to drop to .1.

The top three feet of soil next to the older buildings was hauled away in a hazmat-style operation during a summer vacation period in 2011. It contained levels of lead, pesticides, PCBs and volatile organic compounds above California safety standards, according to an assessment conducted before construction began.

Edelman, like other parents, was not alerted about the report or soil removal operation because her older daughter didn’t start at the high school until fall of 2011, while her younger daughter started middle school this year.

A rep from SMMUSD sent the Huffington Post and other media outlets Superintendent Lyon’s response to the teachers’ letter and parents’ concerns:

We recently have heard from teachers at Malibu High School who are concerned that health issues experienced by some staff members could possibly be related to environmental contaminants. We take these concerns seriously. Upon learning of the concerns, we engaged the services of a highly qualified environmental consulting firm, to investigate the concerns and recommend corrective action, if needed. Please know that safety of our staff and students is a primary concern. We appreciate that staff members have conveyed these concerns to us so that we can take the appropriate action. I assure you, once the investigation and analysis are complete we will address the recommendations and will work closely with our staff and community partners to implement the recommendations.

SMMUSD hired Arcadia, Calif. firm Executive Environmental to assess the campus’ risks and report back to the district. A school bulletin sent to parents on Monday morning said that environmental testing has already begun, and that the teachers whose ailments are listed in the letter have been interviewed. The school also promised to inform parents of the test results and the firm’s recommendations as soon as the testing is complete.

Edelman will wait to see the report before making another decision.

“I don’t think the school is any less safe than it was on Friday,” said Edelman. “The question I have is, how safe was the school on Friday?”

Malibu High Classes Moved Due To Toxic Scare

FOX 11

Malibu, CA –

From Gigi Graciette:

Never underestimate the power of a mom on a mission…or a dad, for that matter.

On Monday, while covering the story at Malibu High it was obvious that parents were upset…and understandably so.

Toxic and pesticide-laden soil had been removed from the campus back in 2011 and parents say they weren’t told.

A group of twenty teachers, one third of the teaching staff, notified administrators that they were sick and thought something on campus was causing their illnesses and again parents say they weren’t told.

According to the teachers, many of them suddenly began suffering from debilitating migraines; inexplicable skin rashes; hair loss and respiratory issues.

And then there is the cancer.

In the last six months, three teachers say they have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Three others have been diagnosed with thyroid problems.

And parents say they had no idea this was happening.

Environmental testing then began on campus but parents weren’t told about it for weeks.

And the classrooms where the teachers worked and the testing was being done were still being used.

It would seem, if only to err on the side of caution, that if testing is being done than maybe the rooms and/or building should be closed until the results are in…just in case.

But they weren’t.

On Monday I asked the school’s principal and the superintendent if the buildings were closed pending test results and was told no. I have to admit I was surprised. “There simply isn’t anything to indicate the rooms are unsafe”, we were told several times in replies to follow up questions.

Parents had questions too…and they were none too happy with the answers they were getting so on Tuesday a meeting with school district officials was held.

Media cameras were not allowed but several parents shot their own video with their cell phones and were texting reporters from the inside. “Enough secrecy”, said one dad. “Let the truth be known”, texted another mom.

When all was said and spoken, the district changed course and one of the buildings being tested was closed to classes pending test results. Some students are now learning in trailers or in classrooms at the elementary school next door.

Most parents like the idea. Some want more done. Much more.

While other parent have opted on “independent study” , a form of home schooling; keeping their kids home until they know exactly what’s going on at Malibu High.

They’re erring on the side of caution…just in case.



“They talk about transparency, and they don’t tell us they are moving contaminated dirt while we are there?”  9TH  grader Tyler Barlow was one of the Malibu High School students packing the auditorium, where  Santa Monica School District Officials  were explaining themselves.

Specifically, why the district hauled over a thousand cubic yards of contaminated soil, from the school quad, back in 2011, without letting the parents know.

“We are looking at our communication issues,” explained Superintendent Sandra Lyon, adding that they will move all the classes from the Middle School building E to other campus buildings, perhaps even across the street, at Juan Cabrillo Elementary, until further testing is done.

Lyons’ voice actually cracked, as she addressed the standing room only crowd, apologizing for the miscommunication. The district is partnering up with LA County Health to develop protocols for testing the buildings, the teachers, even the students, if they wish.

The district, late Friday, did send out a memo to its staff, confirming testing had begun after concerns from teachers, but officials did not disclose  they have reports of thyroid cancers, from 3 teachers, until  Sunday. By then, some of the parents were hearing about the whole thing in the news. No direct  correlation has been established between the cancers, or migraines and rashes included in the complaints, with the actual dirt moving. Echoing so many others, parent Rober Alan told us he is not comfortable with the situation, but not sure what to do at the moment.

Other parents are not waiting for school or county testing, they are marching their kids right into their personal doctor’s office, admitting they “could be panicking, but why take a chance?”

The district does promise to expedite requests for home study, for those families wishing to keep their children away from school. For Tracy Birdsall, there was no question about it, “I just brought in her homework, my daughters hasn’t been in since we heard about this”

Superintendent Lyons said a voluntary survey of school employees’ health, and mold testing would be completed at the campus by the end of the week, promising results by Friday.  But the other testing will take some time, and students in the middle school and music buildings will be moved immediately.

The school was built on agricultural land.  It is possible the higher than normal carcinogen levels are a result of spraying back then, even pesticides used to exterminate termites in the older buildings.


(FOX 11 / CNS) One third of the teachers at Malibu High School have complained that recent construction and moldy classrooms may have unleashed a cluster of thyroid cancers, skin disease and other serious illness at the campus, and the school district has hired environmental consultants to examine their claims.

The complaints came after the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District hired contractors who dug up and carted away 1,017 cubic yards of dirt contaminated by carcinogenic PCBs, lead and pesticides, apparently the legacy of years of treatment for termites at a 50-year-old section of the school.

District Superintendent Sandra Lyon issued a memo to the schools staff Friday.

In it, she said the district has hired “a highly qualified environmental consulting firm to investigate these concerns and to recommend corrective action, should any be identified.

Tests for mold and other contaminants began Sept. 20. Lyon told City News Service today that parents should have no qualms about sending their kids to those rooms on Monday.

“We know they are safe, just as much as you know that your house is safe,” she said. “As far as we know, those rooms are safe.”

Seth Jacobson, whose son will have class in one of the rooms Monday, said he is not happy that parents were not informed that environmental testing began two weeks ago.

The teachers concerns centered on older buildings used for visual arts, music and drama at the 1,120-student combined middle school and high school, on a bluff above Zuma Beach at 30215 Morning View Drive.

In a letter to the district obtained by City News Service, teacher Katy Lapajne said three teachers have been diagnosed and continue to be treated for stage one thyroid cancer within the last six months, and three other teachers have recently been treated for other thyroid gland problems.

Lapajne could not be reached for comment today. But in the letter, she said seven Malibu teachers have been treated for persistent migraine headaches, and other teachers have been treated for unexplainable hair loss, skin rashes, bladder cancer and several respiratory illnesses.

At Thursday nights school board meeting, district construction manager and CFO Jan Maez addressed a parents questions with an assurance that all of the teachers concerns would be examined by the consultants, Executive Environmental of Arcadia.

“We hope that we will receive the results of these reports here very, very soon, and then make them very public at that point. So, if we find any issues, they will be addressed immediately, Maez said in comments recorded by The Malibu Times newspaper and made available to CNS.
In a memo sent late Friday to the entire Malibu staff, the superintendent said soil tests done on the dirt in the middle school courtyard would be re-examined now. Air and surface testing for mold has begun in music classrooms and will be continued in the other buildings.

“We appreciate that staff members have conveyed these concerns to us so that we can take appropriate action, Lyons wrote to the staff. “I can assure you that once the investigation and analysis are completed, we will address the recommendations and will work closely with you as we plan and implement the next steps.

According to construction plans published in 2010, tainted soil tested at a “total hazard index of 2, which was significantly above the target index of 1.

After the 1,017 cubic yards of tainted dirt was to be hauled out, the target hazard index was predicted to drop to .1. The top three feet of soil next to the older buildings was hauled away in a hazmat-style operation during a summer vacation period in 2011. It contained levels of lead, pesticides, PCBs and volatile organic compounds above California safety standards, according to an assessment conducted before construction began.

The complaint letter to the districts risk management office was agreed to by 20 fellow teachers, Lapajne said. The school’s total staff includes 60 teachers and 10 other educators.

The older buildings were constructed before the campus opened as Malibu Park Junior High in 1963.

The soil-cleaning was conducted as a preparation for a $30 million reconstruction project that would renovate the older buildings, which was approved by voters in 2006. That project has been stalled for several years by a challenge to its coastal development permit from nearby residents angered by the installation of athletic field lighting at the school.

Read more: http://www.myfoxla.com/story/23627177/teachers-complain-of-environmental-illness-in-malibu-high-classrooms#ixzz2tZ7XCeBl