"All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives.... Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about."
-- US Environmental Protection Agency
Fifty-seven per cent of U. S. schools have environmental problems that are a health risk to children and personnel. In Sick Schools 2009, Healthy Schools Network reports that, "55 million of our children attend public and private K-12 schools where poor air quality, hazardous chemicals and other unhealthy conditions make students (and their teacher) sick and handicap their ability to learn."
Please visit the news link (included in Resources). Note the growing number of articles for December and the more than forty articles published in November 2009 about schools contending with toxic issues. Add to these the number of school environmental problems that never make the news and you will realize this totals up to a large and pressing national problem that needs public support for a solution.
A school administrator revealed what every school district must face when initiating policies regarding toxins at school, that to initiate a plan or program to reduce toxins in school buildings would adversely affect the school district's image by focusing the public's attention on school safety issues. Unfortunately, that position exposes the reality that public image is the first priority of school boards and school administrators, not the safety of schoolchildren and personnel.
A parent asked, "Why should I be concerned if my school district has never had a toxic incident?" Just because a school never reported a toxic incident does not mean one has not occurred. No law requires schools in the US to report toxic injuries or unsafe or hazardous school conditions. School officials can and do use child privacy laws to hid school injuries. In addition, school administrators are not required to inform parents nor personnel about toxins stored and used on school property. School personnel are often threatened with retaliation if they expose toxic risks and injuries at schools. To insure secrecy, school toxic injuries are often settled out of court in exchange for confidentiality which guarantees that no one ever finds out about toxic injuries and threatens harm to those intent on doing so.
After attempting to convince a local school board to enact a toxic prevention program, several parents asked if toxic exposure in schools was a local problem or one in need of a national legislation. The answer is that toxic schools is an international problem. US residents can begin by forwarding the Sick Schools 2009 report onto your Senator, Representatives, President Obama, and government leaders to ask for legislation to fund the US EPA to monitor, regulate, the reduce the use and presence of toxins in our nation's schools. International readers can use the resources provided in the following pages to organize to forge legislation or regulation in their governments and to encourage laws and rights to be enforce through their courts.
To begin, we have to address some failures. Federal and state departments of education and local school districts have failed to protect school environmental quality and health of school children and personnel. Department of Education administrators, officials, and school board members lack the essential skill and experience to make decisions involving chemical and environmental analysis and safety. Sufficient funding and enforcement of uniform environmental safety standards should be be assigned to US EPA, or similar organizations which specialize in health and environmental problems. The EPA is providing some resources, but their scope and funding needs to be extended. Please help by calling for immediate action to protect the health and lives of our schoolchildren and personnel.
Healthy Schools Network, National Healthy Schools Day and for the U. S. EPA Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program in Region 4. She is a member of and partners with a number of environmental and child health organizations, including the Collaborative for Health and the Environment and the Coalition for Healthier Schools, and serves on several working groups for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.
As result of her education, experience, and dedication to promote healthier schools, Nancy Swan supports and joins with child health organizations to
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