.

Teachers Say Malibu High May Be Source of Cancer

Teachers at the school say there have been instances of thyroid cancer, skin disease and other serious illnesses. Environmental consultants have been hired to look into recent construction and moldy classrooms.

By City News Service

One third of the teachers at Malibu High School have complained that recent construction and moldy classrooms may have unleashed a cluster of thyroid cancers, skin disease and other serious illness at the campus, and the school district has hired environmental consultants to examine their claims.

The complaints came after the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District hired contractors who dug up and carted away 1,017 cubic yards of dirt contaminated by carcinogenic PCBs, lead and pesticides, apparently the legacy of years of treatment for termites at a 50-year-old section of the school.   

District Superintendent Sandra Lyon issued a memo to the school’s staff Friday, and said the district has hired "a highly qualified environmental consulting firm to investigate these concerns and to recommend corrective action, should any be identified.” Tests for mold and other contaminants began Sept. 20.

Lyon told City News Service today that parents should have no qualms about sending their kids to those rooms on Monday.

"We know they are safe, just as much as you know that your house is safe,'' she said.  "As far as we know, those rooms are safe.''

Seth Jacobson, whose son will have class in one of the rooms Monday, said he is not happy that parents were not informed that environmental testing began two weeks ago.  

The teachers’ concerns centered on older buildings used for visual arts, music and drama at the 1,120-student combined middle school and high school, on a bluff above Zuma Beach at 30215 Morning View Drive.

In a letter to the district obtained by City News Service, teacher Katy Lapajne said “three teachers have been diagnosed and continue to be treated for stage one thyroid cancer within the last six months,” and three other teachers have recently been treated for other thyroid gland problems. Lapajne could not be reached for comment today. But in the letter, she said seven Malibu teachers have been treated for persistent migraine headaches, and other teachers have been treated for unexplainable hair loss, skin rashes, bladder cancer, and several respiratory illnesses.

At Thursday night’s school board meeting, district construction manager and CFO Jan Maez addressed a parent’s questions with an assurance that all of the teachers’ concerns would be examined by the consultants, Executive Environmental of Arcadia.

"We hope that we will receive the results of these reports here very, very soon, and then make them very public at that point. So, if we find any issues, they will be addressed immediately,” Maez said in comments recorded by The Malibu Times newspaper and made available to CNS.  

In a memo sent late Friday to the entire Malibu staff, the superintendent said soil tests done on the dirt in the middle school courtyard would be re- examined now. Air and surface testing for mold has begun in music classrooms and will be continued in the other buildings.

"We appreciate that staff members have conveyed these concerns to us so that we can take appropriate action,” Lyons wrote to the staff. "I can assure you that once the investigation and analysis are completed, we will address the recommendations and will work closely with you as we plan and implement the next steps.”

According to construction plans published in 2010, tainted soil tested at a "total hazard index” of 2, which was significantly above the target index of 1. After the 1,017 cubic yards of tainted dirt was to be hauled out, the target hazard index was predicted to drop to .1.

The top three feet of soil next to the older buildings was hauled away in a hazmat-style operation during a summer vacation period in 2011. It contained levels of lead, pesticides, PCBs and volatile organic compounds above California safety standards, according to an assessment conducted before construction began.

The complaint letter to the district’s risk management office was agreed to by 20 fellow teachers, Lapajne said. The school's total staff includes 60 teachers and 10 other educators.

The older buildings were constructed before the campus opened as Malibu Park Junior High in 1963. The soil cleaning was conducted as a preparation for a $30 million reconstruction project that would renovate the older buildings, which was approved by voters in 2006.

That project has been stalled for several years by a challenge to its coastal development permit from nearby residents angered by the installation of athletic field lighting at the school. 
Poison Free Malibu October 06, 2013 at 07:55 PM
The rodent poisons applied in 2011 should also be considered, including fumitoxin, diphacinone, and strychnine. Check out this article from the Malibu Surfside News from then - http://malibusurfsidenews.com/stories/201109/201109150005.html How much and how often have these poisons been applied?
Scott Hosfeld October 07, 2013 at 09:13 AM
I am wondering why school administrators would claim that it is safe and ok to send children and adults into this situation, and actually encourage it. It would seem that caution is in order and that alternate locations within the school be used until results are confirmed, as a simple matter of prudence and good judgement. I am not comfortable sending my children to any of the questionable buildings where they have all spent considerable time, until this is cleaned up and publicly cleared up.
Steven Weinberg October 07, 2013 at 10:49 AM
I agree with Scott. Administrators telling us things are safe before comprehensive environmental study results are in is not anything we can rely on -- remember when actors dressed like doctors told us cigarettes were safe? The studies need to be conducted immediately and concluded this week or we all have to consider pulling our kids out of the school unless, as Scott suggests, alternative locations are found. These same administrators are not going to be around and certainly not volunteering to pay for the illness and deaths that could result if toxicity is found.
Lorelei Shark October 07, 2013 at 10:58 AM
"We appreciate that staff members have conveyed these concerns to us so that we can take appropriate action,” District Superintendent Sandra Lyon wrote to the staff. "I can assure you that once the investigation and analysis are completed, we will address the recommendations and will work closely with you as we plan and implement the next steps.” OMG SHUT THE DAMN SCHOOL DOWN NOW! “three teachers have been diagnosed and continue to be treated for stage one thyroid cancer within the last six months,” and three other teachers have recently been treated for other thyroid gland problems. Seven Malibu teachers have been treated for persistent migraine headaches, and other teachers have been treated for unexplainable hair loss, skin rashes, bladder cancer, and several respiratory illnesses. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED? DO PEOPLE NEED TO DROP DEAD BEFORE THE SCHOOL IS SHUT DOWN? I am shocked that Malibu allows this to take place with so little action and acknowledgement. I invite Ms Lyon to sit in the classrooms, everyday - all day until this matter is resolved.
kim October 07, 2013 at 12:51 PM
I wrote in earlier this morning and the post did not go through. So I will try again. This article is extremely disturbing to me. My father died of exposure to PCBs as did many many of his co workers. He worked at Westinghouse in Virginia. The chemical was produced by Monsantos, a very powerful company. My father was not told of the dangers of PCBs ...he was supposed to wear a protective suit and have his clothes washed at the factory. No one conveyed these dangers to him. The PCBs were outlawed and buried in the ground behind the plant. So not only have the people who worked at Westinghouse died of cancer there are an abundance of cancers in the neighborhoods surrounding the plant as the PCBs have gotten into the waters around the plant. This area of Virginia is between Duke Hospital and VCU teaching hospitals. Both hospitals have commented that they have never seen so many cases of cancer and autism in one area of a state. I truly fear for all the faculty and kids at the school who are being exposed to these poisons. The laws are different in Virginia and there was nothing that could be done..that is why the companies came to VA. I am sure the laws are different in CA and I hope that Monsantos has to be liable for their actions. This story really hits home for me and I am really concerned and we need to act NOW to resolve this issue. Many people at my father's company had these types of cancers...Skin cancer in areas where the sun does not shine. My dad died of a brain tumor and his symptoms started with headaches.. I urge every member of the faculty to get examined asap..
Lorelei Shark October 07, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Kim, thank you for your post. I hope the school heeds your words. Monsanto ought to be brought before a world tribunal, as should BP and Tepco and all the other conglomerates killing us everyday while they rake in their $billions. The fact that it's taken this long, and there's still no action, is criminal. To all the nearby residents who are freaked out about Friday Night Lights- how freaked are you about dying a painful death by chemicals in your dirt... aerosolizing into the lungs of you, your kids, animals, etc. This is alarming.
Michael Tiffany October 07, 2013 at 05:25 PM
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is supposed to oversee all environmental remediation work, and review all new construction work, in California schools. The DTSC database shows no work at this school since 2000, meaning that the 2010-2012 remediation was probably not properly reported to or overseen by them. The DTSC Schools program is very good, with highly qualified scientists - it was put in place after the environmental fiascos of Belmont Learning Center and El Dorado Hills High School. This situation should be reported to them immediately: Thomas M. Cota Brownfields & Environmental Restoration Program Department of Toxic Substances Control 5796 Corporate Avenue Cypress, California 90630 (714) 484-5459 tcota@dtsc.ca.gov
Hans Laetz October 07, 2013 at 07:44 PM
The fact is that the school district has been trying to get those antiquated musty buildings renovated for years. I have watched them get hooted down by certain parties when they explained that the buildings that seemed "perfectly good" needed to be replaced. There's $30 million plus to do that which we Malibu taxpayers borrowed in 2006 and are paying interest on every day. It's sitting untouched and people are getting sick in toxic classrooms (apparently). -- And that project is bitterly fought by a handful of neighbors who seek revenge over the field lights. Their appeal to the Coastal Commission, after losing at Planning Commission, City Hall and Superior Court, is simply reprehensible and shameful.
Ben Dover October 07, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Very illuminating.........
Bob October 09, 2013 at 04:02 PM
What about the students mine have been there for 5 years now. And have 5 more years to go. What are the residual effects on them in there 20's and 30's. Why didn't they tell us this earlier, I hold the district responsible for all future health issues that could be related to these poisons the district has deliberately hidden. And what about the kids at Juan Cabrillo? The schools were built around the same time. Are they testing those grounds as well? Its time to get all students off this campus until 2 separate testing entities can confirm there is no danger. And where is the EPA and Calif State on this issue?
sandy savas October 09, 2013 at 11:43 PM
My son has been complaining of bad headaches for about a year now. I always thought it was from concussions he suffered in football. I have my doubts now. Speaking of football, the summer of 2011 when they removed the tainted soil "hazmat style", my son was practicing up wind for "mandatory summer practices". Did the school not know the field was likely to be in a cloud of possible carcinogenic and/or potentially hazardous dust? I certainly did not know of this 2011 hazardous event then. This situation seems to have been hidden from the public for quite some time. An outrage.
Michael Tiffany October 10, 2013 at 01:38 AM
Once again, the district is supposed to report any and all cleanup and investigation work to DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances Control, 5796 Corporate Avenue, Cypress, California 90630, (714) 484-5459, tcota@dtsc.ca.gov). Federal EPA is shut down, the Republicans say you don't need it.
Scott Hosfeld October 10, 2013 at 08:21 AM
I know that Michael has posted this before and am very much hoping it has been brought to the attention of authorities, not just within the district, and perhaps a hungry investigative reporter who might have a good reason to follow up on this!
Bob October 10, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Mr. David Goldstein would be great at this one.
Michael Tiffany October 11, 2013 at 06:01 PM
http://www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public/profile_report.asp?global_id=19820092
Mike Dunn October 15, 2013 at 02:41 AM
If the campus is completely safe as claimed by the administrators who's offices are not there I have a suggestion. The administrators should move on to the school campus and then turn their offices into the New Malibu High.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »