NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Council members ripped into a Department of Education official Tuesday, criticizing a 10-year plan to clean up PCBs, which may be leaking from faulty light fixtures, in about 800 city schools.

Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm spoke before the Council Committee on Education insisting PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) — which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “have been demonstrated to cause cancer” and were used in industrial applications before being banned in 1979 — were not a health risk.

“I want to make very clear that we’re very confident there’s no danger to anybody,” Grimm said.

However, that remark prompted anger from council members, including Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson.

“If you had children in school, I don’t believe that you would take that same position. I’m almost sure you wouldn’t. You would not have your child sitting in a classroom for 10 years…being exposed to toxins that could hurt their health,” Jackson said.

“Absolutely nobody believes you,” said Council Member Gale Brewer in response to Grimm’s comments.

Sparks flew at the council hearing when Grimm testified that the Education Department could not speed up its plan to remove the PCBs.

Other witnesses demanded swifter action and insisted 10 years was much too long.

“Like everything else — with all due respect — if people want to do it, it’s amazing how fast it gets done. So I know you want to do it, I just think that this should be like a huge priority. People are really panicked,” Brewer told Grimm.

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