PCB-containing light ballasts still in use are long past their intended lifespan and can leak, smoke, or burn when the ballast fails. This causes a safety and exposure hazard for students and staff in schools. Proactive replacement of old PCB-containing lights helps schools avoid these hazards and costly cleanups.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are a group of human-made compounds found in air, water, land, and sediments. They are very persistent (lasting for decades in the environment) and bioaccumulate (building up in the food chain, in animals. and people).
PCBs have toxic effects in the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems in people and other organisms. PCBs also cause cancer in animals and are likely to cause cancer in people.
Take immediate action
If there are any signs of discolored or stained lights, leaking oil, leaking tar-like matter, soot, or smoke from fluorescent light fixtures:
- Evacuate people from the room and prevent re-entry.
- Increase ventilation by opening windows.
- Do not handle leaking PCB-containing lights without proper training and personal protective equipment.
- Consult with the EPA Region 10 PCB coordinator (Michelle Mullin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-553-1616) to make sure all relevant cleanup procedures are followed.
- Call the your regional Ecology office and speak with a dangerous waste compliance officer.
Was there a possible release of PCBs to air or water?
- Notify your local clean air authority.
- Notify your regional Ecology office for further instructions on containment.
Learn how to handle and dispose of PCB-containing lights.
We urge you to remove and replace any PCB-containing lights before they fail. While intact ballasts do not pose a risk of immediate harm, staff and students may be continuously exposed to very low levels of PCBs released into the air, where they can then settle on surfaces and accumulate in dust.
If your school is in the process of removing or replacing these lights, follow these best management practices to reduce exposure:
- Improve ventilation in rooms with PCB-containing lights.
- Keep surfaces clean to reduce dust that may contain PCBs.
- Use wet or damp cloths or mops to wipe surfaces.
- Do not sweep with dry brooms or use dry cloths for dusting.
- Encourage children and staff to wash their hands with soap and water, particularly before eating.
- Wash children’s toys.
Learn How children are exposed, health risks, and tips to reduce exposure.
Yes. Here are some suggested resources for schools in need of lighting upgrades that fall outside the scope of this program.
OSPI's Grants & Funding Resources
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is developing a grant program to address pre-1980 and T12 fluorescent ballasts in school districts. OSPI’s program will expand upon and complement our Product Replacement Program.
Energy Efficiency Grant Program
Washington's Department of Commerce offers grants to fund energy efficiency projects. Schools in small towns (populations under 5,000), in disadvantaged communities, and those with multi-building upgrade needs are encouraged to apply.
Utility rebate programs
Most Washington utilities offer rebate programs to encourage upgrades to more energy efficient lighting.