UPDATE: Toxic Air at School
In December 2008, we circulated an alert about a USA Today report on toxic air pollution around our nation's schools. As we mentioned in the alert, air pollution is linked to asthma, the primary cause of hospitalizations for children under 15, and the biggest cause of school absenteeism from chronic illness. In addition, air pollution often contains cancer-causing particles.
Thankfully, many people responded! The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) knows of at least 8,000 citizen letters that were sent to Congressional representatives demanding action. One action government needs to take sooner rather than later is to revise guidelines on school siting to make sure new schools are not situated in polluted areas.
Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee characterized the USA Today article as "a shocking story of child neglect," and stated that "If legislation is needed, I'm going to do it immediately," to require government monitoring of toxic chemicals in the air around the nation's schools.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also taken note: It released a statement acknowledging the "enormous task confronting the US EPA and state and local agencies." More than a year ago the EPA was mandated to develop national school siting guidelines. Such guidelines would ostensibly prohibit local governments from locating new schools on contaminated land or in the path of toxic air pollution. Following the USA Today series, the EPA finally designated its Children's Health Office to develop the guidelines, which are due in June 2009.
The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) warns that the EPA now has only 5 months to collaborate with the Department of Education and multiple other agencies involved in this enormous task . CHEJ is asking each of us to take action to help make sure that the guidelines are strong and comprehensive, and created in a timely way. You can contact your school board, your representatives, or write a letter to the editor, but please consider taking action to protect school children from toxic air: