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Teachers prompt investigation into toxic exposure at schools

Parents in Los Angeles County may have read about a group of teachers working to press their district into further testing for toxins on a campus shared by three schools. The action started with three teachers diagnosed positive for thyroid cancer. A series of tests on indoor air quality had already revealed PCB levels in excess of federal standards. Failure of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to perform a more thorough round of testing has prompted fears among faculty of toxic exposure in an unsafe workplace.

The teacher's union was approached with the goal of pushing demands for a full site assessment, which may lead to workers' compensation claims against the district. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national and nonprofit organization, was contacted to provide representation. Thirty teachers out of the union total of 80 were being represented at the time of this report.

The superintendent for the district did not comment on employee demands. The list of demands include an assessment that seeks to locate the source(s) of any contaminants, full examination of all on-site toxins identified in the first round of testing and the use of soil and other potential source tests. The affected campus hosts Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Malibu Middle and Malibu High schools.

Employers in any field have a responsibility to provide a reasonably safe workplace. This usually includes preventing unnecessary toxic exposure. When employers show negligence in their duty, the exposed worker may suffer lost wages, medical expenses, permanent disability or even an untimely death. Without action to uncover contributing causes to a worker's injury, this suffering may be experienced by many workers. An attorney with experience in workers' compensation cases may be able to aid in the investigation and pursue wrongful death or injury claims against the negligent employer.

Source: Malibu Times, "Malibu Teachers to District: Test For More Toxins", Melissa Caskey, November 25, 2013

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