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EPA tests show poor air quality outside some schools

10 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Clean Air, Administration

EPA tests monitoring the air quality near schools have found concerning levels of air pollution in some cases reports Brad Heath of USA Today.

The study, which is still ongoing, was prompted by a USA Today article highlighting the air pollution around many of the nation’s schools. Although most of the schools tested in the EPA study were found to be safe, there were several instances in which high levels of chemical toxins were found. 

"There is work to be done still on air quality," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged. "The best result would be to find that all of our concerns were overblown, but we're not finding this in every case."

Some of the problematic results, writes Heath, include:

  • "Samples taken outside three schools in Ohio and West Virginia showed elevated levels of manganese, a neurotoxin that can cause mental and emotional problems. At East Elementary School in East Liverpool, Ohio, samples collected in 2009 showed average levels well above what the EPA considers safe for long-term exposure.
  • Tests outside at least 15 schools detected high levels of acrolein, a chemical that can irritate the eyes and throat, and that — in a far more potent form — had been used as a chemical weapon during World War I. The EPA suspects those readings were caused by problems with the tests but the agency is taking more samples to be sure.
  • Samples near a Portland, Ore., school found 'slightly elevated' levels of cadmium, a carcinogen. The state Department of Environmental Quality has detected cadmium levels nearby before but has said it cannot identify the source."

Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of exposure to chemical toxins, and poor air quality can hinder their ability to learn, increase sick days, and increase their risks of getting serious illnesses later in life.

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