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Federal officials said the issue was serious but should not be cause for alarm. The agency recommended these steps for buildings of that age:
Don't sweep with dry brooms or use dusters in places near caulk that might contain PCBs, and clean frequently with a wet or damp cloth.
Clean air ducts, improve ventilation by opening windows and use exhaust fans and vacuums with high-efficiency air filters.
Wash hands with soap and water often, especially before eating or drinking, and wash children's toys often.
The agency also set up a PCBs in caulk hot line, 1-888-835-5372, and Web site, http://www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk/.
PCBs, known formally as polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemicals that were widely used in construction and electrical materials -- they made caulk more flexible -- before they were banned 30 years ago. PCBs can hurt the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and can cause cancer if they build up in the body over long periods of time.
Hundreds of the 80,000 public school buildings across the country were built between 1950 and 1978, though it is difficult to say exactly how many.
A decade-old Education Department report said the average building was 40 years old, and the Rebuild America's Schools coalition says that two-thirds of schools have an environmental problem such as the presence of cancer-causing asbestos or radon gas, lead in water and paint, leaking underground storage tanks or cancer-causing radon gas.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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