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Healthy schools free from toxins are critical to a child’s health and well-being. Most of the time spent during the years that children’s bodily and intellectual capacities are developing is spent inside school buildings. Due to funding crunches across the nation, our schools are in trouble and many are actually threatening our children’s health and ability to learn on a daily basis. Schools that do not have responsible policies on protecting children’s health are forcing students and staff to be exposed to toxic chemicals.
For much of the time when children’s bodies and intellect are developing, they are spending their time inside a school. Healthy schools free from toxins that damage development are therefore critical to children’s health and well-being. However, our nation’s schools are in trouble, and many are actually a threat to our children’s health and ability to learn.
The average age of a public school building in the United States is 42 years. One-third of all U.S. schools need extensive repair and replacement. The U.S. Government Accounting Office declared that, “while laws compel children to attend school, some school buildings may be unsafe or even harmful to children’s health.” Year after year due to funding crunches, many schools dedicate smaller and smaller percentages of their budgets to maintain and operate their facilities.
The Children’s Environmental Health Program (CEHP) works on several topics surrounding the issues of preventing harm in your child’s school.
Select a topic to find out more:
Chemical and Other Environmental Hazards in Schools
Highly toxic chemical pesticides are used on a regular basis to control pests in our schools. Because schools are being cleaned less frequently, these pesticides to build on surfaces and in the air.
Outdated and deteriorating ventilation systems are no longer able to supply adequate amounts of fresh air to children and staff in overcrowded classrooms. Indoor air pollutants such as toxic molds and dust, vapors from toxic chemical cleaners and toxic art and science lab materials, as well as diesel exhaust fumes enter schools when school buses idle near ventilation intakes are unable to escape, forcing students and staff to breath polluted air.
On school grounds, children can be exposed to toxic fertilizers, pesticides and other lawn chemicals. Chemicals left by industries, leaking underground storage tanks, landfills or other previous uses of the school property can be kicked up from the soil and breathed in the air.
Health Problems Suffered by School Aged Children
Increasingly, children are being found to be hyperactive, slow to learn, and disruptive in school. The number of children in special education programs classified with learning disabilities increased 191% from 1977 to 1994. Asthma is the number one reason for school absenteeism and number one chronic childhood illness. These and other rising childhood diseases, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain and reproductive cancers, are linked to exposure to environmental toxins. These rising trends in toxic-related childhood illnesses indicate the urgent need to eliminate children’s exposure to toxins in all areas where children learn, play and live. There is no excuse for mandating children attend schools that are harmful to their health and ability to learn, especially when these exposures are completely preventable.
Lack of Regulations and Guidance for Schools
School districts are often unable to address environmental health issues, due to a complete lack of guidance. And yet, parents entrust school officials with responsibility for their children while they are in school. These officials need to be equipped with the knowledge and resources to protect children from harm. Parents and primary caregivers should demand protection for their children from harmful toxic exposures.
Urgent action is needed to halt the rising rates of childhood illnesses interfering with our children’s ability to learn. These rising trends can be averted if school environments are protective of children’s health.
The Children’s Environmental Health Program (CEHP) works to channel the rising concern of parents and communities across the country into effective and coordinated grassroots action to eliminate environmental health hazards that threaten our children. CEHP is dedicated to helping communities solve environmental health problems in schools. Contact us for assistance with making your child’s school a safe and healthy place to learn.