Balmain's toxic school

May 15, 1991

Balmain's toxic school

By Rose McCann

-1>SYDNEY — Some six months after fears were raised that Balmain High School students were being exposed to toxic chemicals, students have been barred from using the harbour shore sporting area.0>

The ban follows a Pollution Control Commission report that the area is heavily contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), mercury and lead.

The school is next to a site used for production of chemicals, including sulphuric acid, pesticides and chlorofluorocarbons, from the late 19th century until 1989. The company, Monsanto, was the main importer of PCBs until they were banned in 1975.

PCBs, which have been linked to liver and kidney damage, thyroid gland disorders, and cancer, were commonly used as electrical insulators in fluorescent lights and ceiling fans.

For the past year, the NSW Teachers' Federation has sought removal of all classroom electrical fittings containing PCBs. The Education Department has responded slowly and only partially. n

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