Pillsbury Legal Bills Reach $3.38 Million after another $500K Approved at March 3rd, 2016 Board

March 17th Agenda shows $500k more which Superintendent claims may be a mistake but has not removed it from the agenda.

MALIBU — Local parents and taxpayers are outraged that the school district has now spent more than $10 million to avoid removing hazardous waste, known as PCBs, from its schools; this includes a whopping $3.38 million spent on the law firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman in only 2 years.  The estimated cost of removing the PCBs is far less than those legal bills alone. Parents and taxpayers have raised questions about why a school district would spend 10 times more to force kids in classrooms with known toxic hazardous waste. New information expands this questioning into the law firm’s selection, spending and strategy, the propriety of the School Board President’s involvement in PCB-related votes, and the firm’s connections to Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of PCBs.

PCBs and Monsanto are in the news right now due to an ongoing a Los Angeles Superior Court trial where plaintiffs allege cancer as a result of PCB exposure. In addition, there is legislation pending, H.R.2576, to amend the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act in a manner that The New York Times reports may give Monsanto a ‘get out of jail free card’ relating to its PCB liability. Harvard researchers estimate that up to 20 million children nationally may be exposed to PCBs in their schools, making the Malibu case of broad importance.

March 17, 2016: SMMUSD AGENDA LINK:

Pillsbury is leading the fight on behalf of SMMUSD against parents and teachers who filed a citizen’s suit eleven months ago that does not seek any monetary damages, only an order from a Federal judge to remove illegal and hazardous PCBs from Malibu public schools. Removal is estimated to cost $750,000 to $1.5 million, and parents are shocked that Pillsbury’s legal fees alone far exceed this amount.

When consultant costs are factored in, the Pillsbury-led strategy to prevent identification and removal of PCBs has cost taxpayers more than $10 million, an amount that will continue to rise if the board keeps approving Superintendent Lyon’s spending requests — last week, the board approved an additional $500,000 for PIllsbury.

While public school districts routinely engage in sophisticated and competitive bidding processes for things like books and landscaping services, Pillsbury was hired to perform millions of dollars of legal work based on the recommendation of School Board President Laurie Lieberman through her husband’s law partner, Tom Larmore. Before becoming a law partner with Lieberman’s husband, Larmore was a partner at Pillsbury.

In response to a public records request, Gail Pinsker, SMMUSD’s public relations officer wrote, “In the case of Pillsbury, I am able to confirm that Tom Larmore, who is very involved on the district’s Financial Oversight Committee on which he has served for years, originally referred us to the Pillsbury firm, where he had been previously employed.”

Larmore currently sits on the district’s financial oversight committee and is representing Santa Monica on the committee to create a separate Malibu school district. In 2014, when Ben Allen was elected to the CA State Senate and his board seat was vacated, Larmore asked to be appointed to the board. The only vote Larmore received from the remaining six board members was from Laurie Lieberman.

The connections between Pillsbury, Larmore and Lieberman were not disclosed to the public in advance of the firm’s hiring. Also not disclosed to the public was the fact that Pillsbury represented a Monsanto spin-off (Solutia) in a bankruptcy case from 2003-2008. Monsanto was the only U.S. manufacturer of PCBs, and Solutia was
formed through a divesture of its chemical business . Over the past two years, numerous legal teams approached SMMUSD suggesting, at no charge to the district, to file a case against Monsanto and Solutia to pay for PCB removal, as many other school districts have done. Pillsbury recommended against it.

PCBs are dangerous to Children and Teachers:
International PCB expert David O. Carpenter, M.D., spoke to the Malibu community for several hours last week at Pepperdine University about the dangers of PCBs.

“What we need to do is get the PCBs out,” 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 sent statements to the press trying to discredit Dr. Carpenter as being a biased expert witness for the plaintiffs, despite his extensive resume and recognition by other world experts. In fact, Pillsbury trusted the expertise of Dr. Carpenter when they retained him as an expert witness for them in 2006 when they represented shareholders of the Monsanto spin-off, Solutia, in a PCB liability case – underscoring the fact that Dr. Carpenter is undoubtedly one of the nation’s preeminent PCB researchers and not a biased expert regarding PCBs’ dangers. 

IARC 26 Experts on PCBs:

The plaintiffs in this case, America Unites for Kids, have confirmed that Dr. Carpenter is providing his expertise pro-bono. According to Dr. Carpenter, he has never profited from working on legal cases — he said he feels it is his obligation as a scientist to work to protect public health and any money received is donated to the University of Albany’s research institute including those monies paid to him by Pillsbury.


For more information:
See Pillsbury’s own website where it touts its work on behalf of polluters:

New York Times story on Toxic Substances Control Act legislation:

Story on LA Superior Court trial regarding Monsanto and PCBs:

Dr. David Carpenter’s Presentation at Pepperdine University’s Law School�d9Y1sIEUU

H.R.2576 TSCA Modernization Act 2015 text

SMMUSD’s Latest Approval of $500,000 for Pillsbury

Text of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Letter to the New York Times:

To the Editor:

You reported a scheme by Congressional Republicans to include in
legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act a provision that
could immunize Monsanto from damages caused by polychlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs. Monsanto was the exclusive American manufacturer
of PCBs, which are potent endocrine disrupters and carcinogens.

Thousands of American schools built between 1950 and 1979 contain hazardous concentrations of PCBs in their window caulking and lighting fixtures, endangering millions of children. Internal company documents show that Monsanto aggressively marketed this product to schools knowing that it was extremely toxic and would ultimately be prohibited by law. The mitigation costs could run from approximately $1 million to $3 million per building. Congress now seeks to shift these costs to school districts and to abolish Monsanto’s liability for more than 80,000 miles of PCB-contaminated streams and rivers.

Congress should be fighting for the health and environmental interest
of Americans and their children instead of safeguarding the ill-gotten
profits of one multinational corporation.

President, Waterkeeper Alliance

New York




For Immediate Release:

Contact America Unites for Kids: 310-436-6000

Thursday, December 17, 2015



District Attorney Determines No Crime in Sampling Toxic Caulk

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s latest attempt to intimidate their critics and suppress evidence of widespread PCB contamination at Malibu schools failed when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office rejected SMMUSD’s criminal complaint against parents who allegedly took small samples of building materials to test for toxic chemicals to protect their children.

A November 25, 2015 letter from L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated the office has formally declined to file charges. A follow-up email from the D.A.’s office clarified that no evidence of vandalism had been found on the campus of either Juan Cabrillo Elementary School or Malibu High (Malibu Schools). The D.A.’s email recognized that taking samples was merely “attempting to determine how many PCBs were in the molding” and not an intent to destroy. The email also stated the extent of damage did not appear to meet the required $400 threshold for a felony charge,  directly conflicting with the district’s claims of tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

“Despite the district’s best attempt to cause harm to me and the organization, truth and justice prevailed,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids, who was named in the investigation. “The district’s actions were malicious from the start as they knew that no vandalism had occurred. For ten days before contacting the police, Lyon, Lieberman, Maez and the Pillsbury lawyers orchestrated a legal strategy to attempt to suppress new evidence of PCB contamination from the Federal Court. These 31 new tests prove the district is in clear violation of Federal law and more importantly putting kids at risk. This latest act by the district –knowingly filing a false police report to put innocent people in jail– in addition to the $7 million they have spent remind us all how far they are willing to go to continue to hide the widespread PCB contamination from parents and teachers.”

On October 28th, 2015, district officials filed a complaint to the Lost Hills Sheriff Department that parents had committed trespassing and vandalism when allegedly taking samples of 62-year old caulking—samples the size of toothpicks–presumed and then confirmed to contain toxic PCBs in violation of Federal law. Based on documents recently filed in Federal court, the district waited to report this purported crime of vandalism for ten days and only after the district’s law firm, Pillsbury, interviewed teachers themselves, a practice that can influence a witness. The District initially reported “damages” in the amount of $1500, but then continued to press the Sherriff and steadily increased the amount to more than $100,000, raising this issue into the category of a serious felony, yet the Los Angeles District Attorney’s email stated they could not substantiate even $400.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a Class I carcinogen used in school building materials between 1950 and 1979 and initially found at the Malibu Schools in 2009. They were banned by Congress in 1976 because of their substantial risk to human health. Since 2004, 180 Countries have ratified the Stockholm Convention to eliminate PCBs from use. PCBs have been associated with a long list of human ailments and are especially harmful to children, including cancer, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, autism, lower IQ and disruption of the neurological, endocrine, reproductive and immune systems. MHS and JCES together have reports of six teachers with thyroid cancer and 25 teachers with thyroid disease.

In March 2015, America Unites for Kids and PEER filed legal action against SMMUSD for violation of the Toxic Substance Control Act which requires all building materials with PCBs in excess of 50 parts per million to be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste. Last month, America Unites provided U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) with 31 more PCB results from Malibu schools showing violations of Federal law. Trial is set for May 17, 2016.

America Unites for Kids is a 501c(3) non-profit dedicated to protecting the health of children. The non-profit is advised by experts, university scientists and policy makers with specific expertise in PCBs. The issue of dangerous and illegal levels of PCBs in public schools has become the nonprofit’s centerpiece issue rising out of its own struggle getting PCBs removed from its local schools.

“This latest action by the school district and their corporate lawyers aims to intimidate parents on a national level and silence concerns that their own kids might be sitting in toxic classrooms. But like the story of David and Goliath, Goliath has failed,” said deNicola. “Parents who seek the truth to protect their children should never be threatened or intimidated by a school district. The reality is everyday there are millions of children and teachers unknowingly sitting in PCB-contaminated classrooms who also need to be protected. We hope to bring awareness to parents so they can actively protect their kids from these cancer-causing chemicals that Congress deemed so harmful, they completely banned them 40 years ago.”


See Denial Letter from Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office

See Details of Denial in Email from District Attorney

December 2015 Update: Number of Teachers and Students Illnesses at Malibu Schools


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

Recently Released EPA Document shows SMMUSD is Defying PCB Policy and Federal Law

According to EPA’s most recent document on PCB policy, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is not following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance or law regarding PCBs at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, contrary to its August 17th, 2015 press release, where SMMUSD claims it is in compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and following EPA guidance by only testing the air and dust but refusing to test any more caulk.
However, an EPA document released on Aug 24, 2015 named “How to Test for PCBs and Characterize Suspect Materials”  confirms that a full investigation of the materials is required once a PCB problem–PCBs over the legal limit–like the one found in Malibu is identified.
“If you have identified a PCB problem, you will need to characterize it and determine the extent of PCB contamination. It is important to note that even if PCBs are not present in the air, they still may be present in building materials.”
This exact statement has been the mantra of the Malibu community for almost two years. The EPA document clearly outlines this,
“A sampling plan should be developed to characterize the caulk and other potential building materials that might either contain PCBs or be contaminated through contact with PCB-containing caulk such as wood, masonry, or brick.”
SMMUSD has refused to perform these steps, despite the long-standing community outcry for comprehensive caulk testing and PCB removal. SMMUSD’s refusal to test has been previously referred to as a “don’t test, don’t know” PCB-policy to avoid complying with the law.

“This EPA document validates everything America Unites for Kids, on behalf of Malibu, has been asking SMMUSD to do for two years,” said Jennifer deNicola, president of the Malibu-based environmental advocacy organization America Unites for Kids.

“The district has shown it will spare no expense to avoid characterizing the extent of the PCB-contamination. While the district continues to false use the EPA for cover, everyone really needs to understand not testing is a choice made by Superintendent Lyon and she has spent a lot of public money defending that choice.”

A letter from EPA region 9 on April 17th, 2015 to America Unites for Kids says, “nothing limits the District’s ability to perform additional caulk sampling or removal.”

According to deNicola, the EPA document the district refers to in their August 17th press release is intended to provide guidance only for schools that have never tested for PCBs and do not know if there are PCBs, not for sites, like Malibu, where there is already verified PCB contamination in the caulking in violation of Federal law.

“We are way past wondering if Malibu has toxic PCBs,” deNicola said. “We know Malibu has a significant PCB problem. This document directs the district to determine how wide-spread the PCB contamination goes and remove all PCBs in violation of current law. We keep asking ourselves, why would a school district claiming to be strapped for cash, spend six times what it would cost solve the problem.”

PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that were used to make a wide range of construction materials and electrical components before being banned by Congress in 1976. The law states the PCBs are an unauthorized use and EPA regulations state,

“PCB Items with PCB concentrations of 50 ppm of greater present an unreasonable risk to injury to health”
PCBs have been found by EPA and international agencies to be highly toxic, persistent organic pollutants known to cause cancer and a host of other serious illnesses which include those reported at Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo by teachers and alumni.

Beginning almost two years ago, testing has shown that 18 classrooms in eight buildings at Malibu High School and adjacent Juan Cabrillo Elementary School are plagued with high levels of PCBs. In some instances, the levels were 11,000 times higher than Federal TSCA law allows and the highest levels ever identified in a public school.

It has been reported that five teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, 14 of 30 middle school teachers, almost 50%, have thyroid disease, and at least a dozen alumni between the ages of 20-28 have reported thyroid cancer, thyroid disease or melanoma. A formal health study has not been organized to be sent to Alumni, teachers or current students.

America Unites for Kids along with PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, have filed a Citizen’s suit under TSCA requesting that SMMUSD comply with Federal law by removing all PCBs above federal limits at the Malibu Schools. In June, the plaintiffs succeeded in defeating the defendant’s motion to dismiss. This case is scheduled for trial in Los Angeles Federal Court on May 17th, 2016 and discovery is now ongoing.

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.”

Press Release January 14, 2015

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Contact: Leola Webb [PEER] (202) 265-7337; Jennifer deNicola [America Unites for Kids] (310) 436-6000

Malibu Schools Spending Millions to Avoid Toxic Cleanup

Payments to Lawyers and Consultants Exceed What a Full Cleanup Would Cost

Washington, DC — Malibu public schools officials have spent millions of dollars on lawyers and consultants to avoid following Federal law and fully testing and remediating contaminated facilities, according to figures posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and America Unites for Kids (formerly Malibu Unites). The lavish spending includes $775,000 in legal fees paid or approved, although there has yet to be any litigation, and environmental consultants staying in a $9,000-per-month luxury condo.

Over the past thirteen months, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has spent more than $3.7 million on such expenditures. Yet no polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) remediation has occurred and only four windows have been slated for removal of caulking containing PCBs by the end of next June. The district has refused to do school-wide caulk testing even though district and independent samples reveal that 17 classrooms in seven buildings throughout the tri-school campus, educating students ages 5-18, contain caulk with PCBs above levels allowed by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Most rooms still have not had the caulk tested and of those that have, several are up to 7,000 times the legal limit.

In November 2013, SMMUSD identified illegal levels of PCBs in caulk in four classrooms on the Malibu High campus. After that, the district refused to test any more caulk or other building materials for PCBs, in order to avoid further triggering federal law requiring removal. Instead, the district has proceeded only with “avoidance testing” such as air and dust tests, which cannot trigger Federal law.

SMMUSD’s expenditures and approvals to date include:

  • More than $2.7 million on environmental consultants, primarily to monitor rather than remove pollutants;
  • $775,000 on the environmental defense law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, without any litigation pending; and
  • Tens of thousands of dollars on lodging and travel expenses including a luxury beach “villa” summer rental for $9,000 per month, as well as thousands more on hotels, meals, and travel billed by the environmental engineering firm Environ, even though Environ was hired in part because it is locally based.

“All of this money could and should have been spent in the classroom to create a safer environment for teachers and students,” commented PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. “These records suggest that more than the school buildings need a good cleaning.”

For more than a year now, teachers and students at Malibu Middle and High Schools and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School have raised serious health complaints, including thyroid cancer, which they believe may be linked to contaminated facilities. PEER and America Unites for Kids have been calling for testing of the caulking, removing all materials contaminated with PCBs above legal limits, and moving students and teachers out of dangerous classrooms and into PCB-free portable units in the interim.

“The district’s spending is fiscally irresponsible and their testing is a sham,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids. “They recently hired cleaners to remove dust in classrooms hours before the dust and air were tested for PCBs. These fixed results were an attempt to give parents a false sense of security and to distract them from what really needs to occur at all schools in the district—testing of all the caulk and removal of all PCBs above legal limits. Full PCB remediation could have been completed by now for far less than the district has spent on consultants and lawyers.”


Look at district expenditures 

View $9,000/month condo bill

Examine one of many expensive hotel bills

See high levels of PCB contamination in classrooms district is avoiding

Learn about the health dangers of PCBs, especially for young children

Trace the unfolding toxic history at Malibu schools

Press Release 10-16-14

Dear District Attorney Jackie Lacy, Sharon Matsumoto, Mr. Joesph Esposito and Mr. Scott Goodwin:

Currently, your office has two sets of independent results for Malibu High that show levels of PCBs over 300,000ppm. As you know, federal law regulates removal of PCBs at 50ppm. Today I am sending you more details regarding these results.

The first set of tests was done by EPA method 8082, which only measures the Aroclor totals. Method 1668c tells us about the 209 individual PCB congeners and is the one scientists and researchers prefer to understand the potential and serious health risks associated with different PCBs congeners. Some congeners are dioxin-like and are orders of magnitude more toxic than total PCBs. These congeners have been linked to different forms of cancer and non-cancer disease. Other congeners are neurotoxic and have been linked to lower IQ, ADHD, autism, and headaches/migraines.

Congener 126 is the most toxic of all PCBs. An EPA certified lab re-ran the independent samples that had revealed levels of PCBs at 370,000ppm and 340,000ppm using EPA method 1668c. This second test showed that those caulk samples contain congener 126 at levels (122ppm and 57ppm) that far exceed the EPA’s regional screen level (RSL) for health and safety.

These are outrageous concentrations of PCBs, and I’ve never heard of such high concentrations of PCB 126, which is the most toxic of the dioxin-like congeners. They must be immediately removed.
–David O. Carpenter, M.D.Director, Institute for Health and the Environment University at Albany

RSLs are health-based standards, used by the EPA, which indicate a potential unreasonable health risk from toxic chemicals. RSLs, when exceeded, require action. Based on the RSL for PCBs, congener 126 at 122ppm, it is more than 3 million times more toxic than the EPA allows (3.7E -05 or .000037ppm). This number constitutes a serious health risk and warrants direct and immediate action.

As you are well aware, risk of health effects is dependent on exposure and toxicity.  There is a significant potential for exposure to PCBs in caulk.  When contaminated caulk is disturbed, or deteriorates with age, it produces dust that may contain PCBs. This dust can be inhaled, touched or ingested through normal hand-to-mouth contact.  Based on the fact that PCBs have been detected in the air, dust and soil that are the same congener makeup, it is likely that caulk has peeled off and contaminated the surrounding soil, rendering the soil as hazardous to school occupants. 
PCBs have also likely been released to air from intact, undisturbed caulk through off gassing and from dust production.
With regards to the toxicity of PBC 126, the scientific literature demonstrates that it is extremely toxic – causing alterations in hormone production, disruptions in cellular processes, and altered gene expression.
Given the nature of the toxicological mechanisms leading to health effects, complete pathways of exposure, and presence of PCB 126 at high levels in the caulk, I believe that the high concentrations of PCBs in the caulk would present an unreasonable risk to children, teachers, and pregnant women at the school.
 —Jill Powder, Ph.D., Toxicologist at Environmental Health Decisions 

One can assume that other rooms at Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo Elementary that have tested high for PCBs will contain high levels of congener 126. Therefore, action must be taken not just in the two classrooms confirmed, but in all buildings where PCBs are found. We have asked for over eight months for students and teachers must be moved into portable units while complete source testing is conducted to determine the nature and extent of the PCB contamination and a plan can be created to remove all PCBs that violate federal law. It’s $65 to test the caulking. $110 million has been set-aside for Malibu from bond money already earmarked for health and safety. There is no reason for hesitation on enacting precautionary principles and providing PCB-free learning environments for our students and staff.

We have previously asked that the DA send a public nuisance letter to SMMUSD. We now have unquestionable proof that a serious health hazard exists on campus that students and staff are being exposed to each day. As reported last week, Ocean View District in Huntington Beach closed three schools immediately when a fiber of asbestos was found. Yet PCBs that are banned by Congress and have the weight of federal law behind them are being minimized by our district. We have learned that being the first on the West Coast to report PCBs in schools puts us at the huge disadvantage of having to pave new paths. Yet government agencies, including your own, cannot ignore federal law which is very clear that PCBs are a human health hazard and must be removed:

The Administrator hereby finds, under the authority of section 12(a)(2) of TSCA, that the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of PCBs at concentrations of 50 ppm or greater and PCB Items with PCB concentrations of 50 ppm or greater present an unreasonable risk of injury to health within the United States. This finding is based upon the well-documented human health and environmental hazard of PCB exposure, the high probability of human and environmental exposure to PCBs and PCB Items from manufacturing, processing, or distribution activities; the potential hazard of PCB exposure posed by the transportation of PCBs or PCB Items within the United States; and the evidence that contamination of the environment by PCBs is spread far beyond the areas where they are used. In addition, the Administrator hereby finds, for purposes of section 6(e)(2)(C) of TSCA, that any exposure of human beings or the environment to PCBs, as measured or detected by any scientifically acceptable analytical method, may be significant, depending on such factors as the quantity of PCBs involved in the exposure, the likelihood of exposure to humans and the environment, and the effect of exposure.

Press Release 9-22-14

School District Threatens Fearful Children with Truancy, Teachers with Termination

For Immediate Release:  Monday, September 22, 2014
Contact:  Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337; Jennifer deNicola [Malibu Unites] 310-436-6000

New independent PCB test results revealing even more classrooms with toxic contamination thousands of times greater than permitted under federal law were turned over to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office today. The District Attorney’s Office has the jurisdiction to seek enforcement of the law, particularly violations of several California state statutes, including Maintaining a Public Nuisance, in violation of California Penal Code Section 372; Child Endangerment in violation of Penal Code Section 273a; and Failing to Disclose a Serious Concealed Danger in violation of Penal Code Section 387.

“We are frustrated that politics and fear of liability have prevented both our school district and the EPA from protecting our children and teachers from exposure to cancer-causing PCBs,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of Malibu Unites, a 501(c)(3) made up of parents, scientists and citizens for safe schools. “We have turned to the Los Angeles District Attorney to seek enforcement of the law.”

For months, Malibu Middle and High Schools and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School have been roiled by discovery of illegal levels of contaminants, including extremely high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in window and door caulk, ventilator dust and soil. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District claims that all buildings are safe to occupy and yet some rooms have been closed off; meanwhile tests continue to come in showing that classrooms currently occupied by students and teachers have PCBs that exceed safe limits set by federal law. The district continues to refuse to do additional source testing despite requests by parents, teachers and most recently by the Malibu Mayor and City Council. It has also rejected an offer by Malibu parent and supermodel Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber to personally pay for source testing.

In July, samples taken from several Malibu school facilities showed illegal PCB levels dramatically higher than previously reported – as much as 7400 times higher than legal limits and the highest known results for a classroom in the U.S.  In September, new samples from five classrooms and a caulk sample from an unannounced removal operation showed four classrooms testing above the federal Toxic Substance Control Act limit of 50 parts per million (ppm).  One classroom sample tested at 231,000 ppm (more than a quarter of the caulk consisted of PCBs) while another contained 146,000 ppm.

“These EPA lab-certified tests results are alarming and require immediate action since children are sitting in classrooms every day that vastly exceed the legal health standard,” added Kurt Fehling, a health scientist working with Malibu Unites.  “Concentrations that high in the caulk leave no doubt that significant exposure may be occurring.” The Mayor of Malibu, Skylar Peak, also warned the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board “Your school board’s data as well as other independent data, done at credible testing facilities indicates that at least nine buildings [at Malibu High School] exceed the legal allowable standard for PCBs. It’s unsafe.”

Cindy Crawford and numerous other parents have decided to remove their children from Malibu High and home school their children or pursue independent study options.  At the same time, the District is threatening truancy proceedings against children whose parents have requested that their children not attend classes in contaminated classrooms which have high levels of PCBs. Teachers resisting assignment to classrooms with PCBs above federal law have also been threatened with termination.

“For the District and EPA to say certain rooms are unsafe but others constructed at the same time from the same materials are just fine makes absolutely no sense,” stated PEER Senior Council Paula Dinerstein who last month filed a notice of intent to sue both the District and the EPA for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act on behalf of both Malibu teachers and parents.  “Air and dust testing have no legal basis and offer no assurance that students and teachers will not be directly exposed to hazardous material.  The law requires that these contaminants be removed.”

See latest test results (full lab report available on request)

Examine Toxic Substance Control Act notice to sue

Luck at July sample with off-the-chart PCB levels

View District Threat to fire teachers balking at contaminated classrooms

Read Malibu City Council resolution urging action on school contamination

Press Release 3-14-14

For Immediate Release



 Major Victory for Malibu Community

 Malibu, March 14, 2014 – A recent email from the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to Malibu Unites President, Jennifer deNicola, states that the DTSC will perform comprehensive soil testing on the three Malibu school campuses under investigation for toxic and hazardous substances. In 2011, over 1000 tons of contaminated soil was removed from the Malibu High campus. Since October 2013, parent advocates and teachers have been pressing for comprehensive testing of the entire, yet the district would not commit in writing to comprehensive soil testing, nor have they tested any of the soil since 2013.

In an email, Maria Gillette of the DTSC stated the DTSC “is proposing to conduct a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the soil at the entire Malibu HS Campus (including the Middle and Elementary Schools).” She went on to say that the DTSC’s soil sampling effort would be more comprehensive than the work Arcadis conducted in 2010. (a copy of this email can be found at

Arcadis was the environmental firm hired by the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District to conduct a site assessment for MHS renovations under Measure BB. This assessment revealed the presence of multiple contaminants in the soil, including hazardous levels of such toxins as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), chlordane, DDT, DDE, arsenic, and lead. Arcadis stated, “Pesticides and PCBs were present…at concentrations that presented an unacceptable health risk.” Arcadis removed more than 1,000 cubic tons of contaminated soil from campus in the summer of 2011. The source of the toxins is still unknown.

Malibu Unites, a non-profit advocacy group of parents, teachers and community members will continue to work with the district and state regulatory agencies to ensure that this comprehensive testing is done efficiently, properly and with agreed upon detection limits.

“Expert oversight, independent from the district, will be critical to ensuring accurate and unbiased test results,” says Jennifer deNicola. “We are currently working with experts to determine independent testing protocols and acceptable detection limits to ensure the health and safety of students and teachers.”

Malibu Unites was founded 2014 to bring the local community together in service of a common goal: to understand the extent of contamination on campus and fully remediate to protect our children and those who educate them. To learn more, visit our web site at