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Toxic Air and America's Schools

In cleaning up my list of unsent E-FORUM subjects, I came across this article originally sent to me by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice back in December 2008 on toxic air at schools. Click here for a rating of each school in Richmond. Several private schools fared worse, but according to the article, of public schools, Valley View has the worst air (66th percentile), followed by Verde at 65th percentile. Washington has the best air at the 9th percentile.

 

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www.chej.org | Issue #2 | December 16, 2008

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IN THIS ISSUE

         Toxic Air and America's Schools: USA Today Article

         Shopping for Toys this Holiday Season? Find Out if Your Toys Contain Dangerous Chemicals

         Canary in a Coal Mine

         Publication of the Month

Toxic Air and America's Schools: USA Today Article

photoLast week, USA Today released its study of schools where the outside air poses an unacceptable health risk from chemical contamination to young children and school staff.  The study identified 435 schools in "toxic hot spots" and the health threats posed by air pollutants to children's health. Nationwide there are minimal state laws and no federal law that prevents school districts from siting a school on or near contaminated land and air pollution. CHEJ has been working with the reporter for the past six months advising them on their air quality testing, sharing information about the many contaminated schools we've worked with, and grounding them in healthy schools issues. Click here to read the article and find out how contaminated the air is at your local schools.

Shopping for Toys this Holiday Season? Find Out if Your Toys Contain Dangerous Chemicals

CHEJ's allies at the Ecology Center unveiled the second annual www.HealthyToys.org Web site this month, which found that one in three toys tested contain chemicals of concern. Researchers tested more than 1,500 popular children's toys for lead, cadmium, arsenic, PVC and other harmful chemicals in time for this year's holiday shopping season. http://www.healthytoys.org/pressimages/banners_small.jpgLead was detected in 20% of the toys tested. Additionally, 27% of toys (excluding jewelry) tested this year were made with PVC, the poison plastic. PVC is a problematic plastic because it creates major environmental health hazards in its manufacture and disposal and may contain additives, including phthalates that may pose hazards. In addition to allowing parents to search by product name, brand, or toy type to see if certain toys have toxic chemicals, the newly-redesigned site also allows visitors to create a personalized holiday wish list that can be sent to family and friends.

Canary in a Coal Mine

In June 1998, Joellen Lawson, a twenty-three-year career special education teacher, educational consultant, and seminar leader, found herself in a hospital emergency room after removing mold contaminated materials from her classroom closets at McKinley Elementary School in Fairfield, Connecticut. Her exposure to mold mycotoxins resulted in her being unable to work and she was forced to accept a disability retirement. Two years later, McKinley was permanently closed due to pervasive mold contamination, but not before over fifty students and school staff reported health complaints such as migraines, seizures, severe asthma attacks, and chronic sinus infections. Turning her tragedy into action, Joellen joined with other concerned teachers, parents and healthcare professionals to form a group called the Canary Committee. She testified before the Connecticut General Assembly and the group succeeded in passing statewide IAQ legislation, requiring each public school to audit their schools for indoor air quality and report the results to the state agency. Despite poor health, Joellen continues to work to ensure that others won't have to go through the same experience.

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Take Action

A year ago President Bush signed in to law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It included a mandate for the EPA to develop comprehensive voluntary guidelines on school siting by June 2009. EPA has not yet begun to work on this, so it is important to apply public pressure now in order to ensure strong comprehensive guidelines. Join our campaign now and help ensure no more schools are built in or near contaminated areas.

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About CHEJ

CHEJ mentors a movement, empowering people to build healthy communities and working to prevent harm to human health caused by exposure to environmental threats.

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