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OPEN WINDOWS, SHUT MOUTHS: Bronx New School Officials Keep Parents in the Dark About School's Chemical Dangers

The TCE contamination discovered earlier this year in the air that the kids breathe at the Bronx New School was so bad that the City's environmental consultant instructed the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA) to "immediate[ly]...open all windows in the first and second floor classrooms at the end of each school day....until the regular school session ends", and "operate the building HVAC system in summer mode".  (my emphasis added) All in the hopes of blowing out of the school the dangerous levels of TCE in the air that had accumulated during the day. [See the consultant's report provided here, at "Executive Summary", at pages 1-2] Then, when the kids came back to school in the morning, the windows would be shut again. No parents were told that this was going on. And, because the windows were to be shut by start-of-school in the morning, there would be no reason for any parent to ask questions.  No parents were told that their kids were going to school every day in a building where the TCE contamination levels surpassed--sometimes by a shocking amount (see below)--the supposedly "safe" TCE levels established by the New York Department of Health. And I've seen nothing to prove that--after the windows were once again shut for the full school day, with the kids inside -- the dangerous TCE levels did not return for the kids to breathe in their classrooms.  Presumably, the dangerous levels did return, because as soon as the kids left school for the day, the windows were once again to be thrown open. Here is what led to the "Open Windows, Shut Mouths" policy for the New Bronx School: January, 2011: NYCSCA's consultant discovers from a search of public records that there are at least FOURTEEN "environmental conditions" either on school property, or very nearby, that might pose a threat to the kids attending the school. (The report does not say why the NYCSCA did not review these records years earlier.) The consultant also discovers TCE contamination in the air in the school's First Floor Cafeteria and the Hallway Near the School's Entrance that is TEN TIMES higher than levels allowed by the Department of Health. [See consultant report at pages 3-4, 12]. Yet no parents are told any of this, and the kids kept going to the school every day. March, 2011: More TCE testing.  This time the consultant discovers TCE concentrations in the school's basement sub-slab, underneath the Cafeteria, of TEN THOUSAND TIMES Department of Health maximums.  TCE in other sub-slab locations is also discovered to be ONE HUNDRED FORTY to SEVEN THOUSAND TIMES the allowed maximum. [See consultant report at p. 13TCE in the sub-slab is important because from there it can migrate into the building, and wind up in the air that the kids breathe. Yet no parents are told any of this, and the kids kept going to the school every day. April, 2011: More TCE testing. TCE once again is found in the Cafeteria and Hallway at up to FOUR TIMES the allowed maximum, and in the basement at SIXTY TIMES the allowed maximum.  TCE is also found once again in the sub-slab, this time at levels underneath the Cafeteria and elsewhere at up to SIX THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED TIMES the allowed maximum. [See consultant report at p. 13] Yet no parents are told any of this, and the kids kept going to the school every day. May, 2011: While TCE levels in the Cafeteria and Hallway are found-- but only right after ventilation--to be reduced,  TCE levels in the basement actually INCREASE, with levels there reported to be nearly ONE HUNDRED TWENTY TIMES the allowed maximum.  [See consultant report at p. 12] Yet no parents are told any of this, and the kids kept going to the school every day. In fact, as the parents are now painfully aware, they were not told anything at all until well after the school year was over, and the new school year about to start. What the hell is going on here?

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