Three months after a USA Today report relying on government data found potentially high levels of dangerous air pollution around schools, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to test the air.
The USA Today report in December concluded that the air quality in many U.S. schools is likely to be so bad that children and teachers are at risk of cancer, brain damage, asthma and a host of other illnesses, because schools are situated downwind of major industrial facilities.
The newspaper at the time called the potential risk "widespread, insidious and largely unaddressed."
While USA Today identified 435 schools that ranked worst, the EPA will focus first on testing at 62 schools.
See The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools for reports, analysis and calculators that allow you to see how risky the air might be at your local school.
(Also consider previous research, which wouldn't be reflected in this data, that show that asthma and allergy rates are up to 50% higher for children who live near major highways, and that one in three U.S. public schools is within about 1,300 feet, or a quarter mile, from a major highway.)
And, remember to consider air pollution sources that won't make it into any national government database, but which may be more important to the health of students. Most notably: School buses. Older diesel school buses are a huge source of air pollution that can damage young lungs. Talk to your school board about replacing or upgrading any buses made before 1990, and instituting a No Idling campaign to avoid unnecessary risks in the school parking lot.
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