MALIBU — An environmental report published by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District shows district officials were first approached by Malibu High teachers in 2010 over environmental concerns at the school.

The Industrial Hygiene Survey was compiled from interviews and sample testing from August 2010, September 2013 and October 2013. Arcadia-based consulting firm Executive Environmental completed the 24-page report for the district last week and it was published Oct. 18. Senior hygienist Vicki Uchida spearheaded the survey.

Uchida’s report outlines similar health concerns raised in a letter sent to the district earlier this month by a group of teachers: three teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since February, one is on medication for thyroid problems, six suffer recurring migraines, one with asthma and one teacher has had a rash for six years.

On Sept. 20, 2013, Uchida interviewed 12 teachers at Malibu High, including one who first complained in 2010.

Theater teacher Bridget Leonard told Uchida in 2010 of bad odors in Classroom 1, a theater room. It does not specify whether the district acted on Leonard’s complaint in 2010.

In September of this year, Leonard “reported that she continues to have the same concerns expressed [in 2010].” The problem appeared to worsen at the end of last summer when construction workers dug a trench to install a conduit under her room extending into Classroom 2. The two rooms were not cleaned after the trench was completed, according to the report. Teachers feared exposure to “toxic dirt” from the trenches.

“[Leonard] went to her classroom after the construction had been completed and noticed odors resembling wet dog, mold and new linoleum. It caused her to have difficulty breathing and to cough continuously while in the room,” according to the report. She has since been relocated to a different classroom.

During her observation, Uchida found dust and “animal-like” odor in Classroom 1.

Ari Jacobs, who teaches in Classroom 2, complained of heavy dust after workers dug the trench. Jacobs also noted musty smells even before the trench. Special education teacher Lynne Flowers said Classroom 14 was similarly musty.

Other teachers also complained of finding cockroaches, squirrels and other pests in their rooms.

Based on its findings, the report suggested all classrooms in the main middle school building (building E) be deep-cleaned and more “housekeeping” be done to avoid dust accumulation and poor room ventilation. To further help ventilation, windows should be kept open whenever a Building E classroom is in use, Uchida wrote.

On Monday, the school district’s chief financial officer, Jan Maez, said administrators had yet to decide on how to approach the recommendations.

“We’re looking at [recommendations] and trying to prioritize how we can accomplish them,” Maez said.

Last week, preliminary results from the report found that mold levels at the school “are similar to levels found outdoors with no unusual findings.”


This article first appeared in The Malibu Times.

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