The New York Post reports that North Carolina State University, Raleigh, is investigating student and alumni exposure to concerning levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”), a probable carcinogen, in the university’s Poe Hall, which housed the College of Education and Department of Psychology.  Poe Hall was officially shut down in November 2023.

More than 150 cancer cases in persons who attended classes at Poe Hall have been reported to local news outlet WRAL, which began probing concerns about the building on or about November 2023, one month after PCB levels tested at more than 38 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) standards for building materials inside five rooms of the building.  The WRAL report, including PCB sampling results, may be read HERE.

According to the university’s Indoor Environmental Investigation Report, “Poe Hall is a 7-story academic building constructed in approximately 1971, when PCBs were widely used in building materials, such as paint, caulk, and some mastics, across the United States.  PCBs are a family of related artificial compounds, manufactured for use in a multitude of industrial and commercial products prior to 1979, when they were banned in the United States.”

The New York Post article may be read HERE.

As a former USAF environmental investigator and a retired New Mexico Environment Department enforcement manager, this writer can attest to the danger and nature of PCBs.  They are highly difficult to dispose, as they do not break down easily, meaning that any contamination lasts for a very long time.  PCBs are fabulous as dielectric fluids (oils) because of the ability to withstand extremely high temperatures – which is why they were used for much of the 20th Century inside pole-mounted electric transformers (and elsewhere) until the toxic nature of PCBs was determined and transformers began to be retrofilled with mineral oil instead.

Like asbestos (which also has fire-resistant and tensile-strength-increasing properties), PCBs were used in many building materials, to include coatings, siding or roofing (e.g., Galbestos, caulking, mastic (adhesives) and paints.

According to the EPA HERE:

PCBs are a group of man-made organic chemicals that were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications, such as electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment as well as plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products.  Although the fabrication of PCBs was banned in 1979, they can still be found in the soil, sediment, air, and water today.  This is because PCBs are highly persistent in the environment and may still be from releases years ago.  Additionally, equipment and products in use today may still contain PCBs and make their way into the environment from improper disposal of industrial wastes, leaks from old electrical transformers, or burning of some wastes in incinerators.

PCBs are toxic chemicals that pose a risk to communities if improperly managed or controlled. Under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), the EPA works to ensure the safe cleanup and disposal of PCBs.

The EPA’s website includes a highly informative section discussing PCBs, which may be viewed HERE.

There are no federally-approved (permitted) PCB storage or waste disposal sites in New Mexico, so all New Mexico-generated PCB waste is managed under TSCA and transported out of state (typically to Texas) for recycling, disposal in a chemical landfill, transformation or high-temperature incineration.  The EPA’s list of approved storage and disposal sites may be viewed HERE.

My brothers and sisters, we live in an age of overregulation.  Clearly!  But, like most things in life, let’s not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater!’  Sometimes environmental regulation is simply a part of loving your neighbor and being a good steward of the earth – which God put into the care of mankind (see Genesis 1:27-28 and Romans 13:8-10).

Let’s pray for those who may have been sickened with cancer (or other diseases) from this contamination and ask the Father to put upon the hearts of all responsible parties (e.g., North Carolina elected and appointed officials, university leadership, governmental regulators, environmental contractors, and the various medical and scientific personnel) to step up and address this situation properly and justly – without selfish motives.

Here are the above-referenced scriptures:

Genesis 1:27-28 (NKJV)
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘[b]e fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth [emphasis mine].’”

Romans 13:8-10 (NKJV)
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, [y]ou shall not commit adultery, [y]ou shall not murder, [y]ou shall not steal, [y]ou shall not bear false witness, [y]ou shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, [y]ou shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore[,] love is the fulfillment of the law [emphasis mine].”

Praise Jesus forevermore!

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