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Former Students Demand Health Monitoring Following Exposure To Toxic Bronx School Building

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Dozens of staff members, former students and families of students in a Bronx elementary school said there should be more health monitoring after they learned Monday of consequences from exposure to an airborne toxin in their former school building.

The building at 3200 Jerome Avenue housed Bronx New School, or P.S. 51X, from 1993 to 2011, serving kindergarten through fifth grade. At that time, about 2,900 staff and students used the facility.

The Department Of Education closed the school in June 2011, after officials found earlier that year levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the air in the building that were 10 times the state safety limit.

TCE is used in solvents, and before the building served as a school, it was a lamp factory and an auto garage.

On Monday, state Department Of Health officials released a report finding that those who are most at risk from TCE exposure in P.S. 51 would be children born to staffers who were pregnant during their years at the school. Those children would have a moderate chance of having congenital heart defects.

Everyone else associated with the school, according to the report, has a low risk of getting sick.

Nevertheless, former students of P.S. 51 said they want more medical monitoring, as they now feel at risk.

"We're concerned that in the future, I might have something wrong with me and it could be due to the school not telling students what went on there," said Samantha Alvarez, a former student of P.S. 51.

"My young one was there from first to fourth and she's the one that has a little, I think, health problems," said Maria Gusino, a parent of a former student of P.S. 51.

"We know that the teachers did get medical monitoring and health registering through the union. We want the same thing for the children," said Alan Gray, the parent of a former student.

"We're concerned about the immediate problem and we're concerned about policies that the officials have that could improve things," said Lois Harr, a former PTA president.

DOH officials said there is no final determination on whether former staff and students of P.S. 51 can get more health monitoring.

Parents also want DOE officials to be required to immediately divulge toxins found and have stricter initial inspections of leased property.

Community advocates said there are at least two lawsuits pending from two P.S. 51 staff members who had illnesses tied to TCE exposure.

DOE officials had no comment Monday, citing the pending litigation.

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