Northport Middle School, in Long Island, NY, has taken action to relocate its students after findings of high levels of Mercury on school grounds. Parents staged a “sick out” rally last week to express concern for the safety of the students. The school will remain closed for the remainder of the year for continued testing and remediation. Read More.
As parents we are concerned that our children have all they need for school. We go to the store with our list of supplies in hand that was provided by this year’s teachers. Stand in line with screaming children, irritated and tired parents. But we get through it.
There is an assumption that the school is safe. That the air and drinking water will not harm the children but rather foster a healthy environment to learn and play.
But what if that is wrong? I asked a friend recently if their children’s school tested the water for lead. She said I received a letter from the school that said the water was safe, so I’m feeling pretty good.
As it turns out the school used the testing results for the city water as evidence of safety. Just because the water leaves the city treatment plant clean and safe does not ensure that when it comes out of the faucet at school it’s clean. So many people are duped by this assertion of safety.
Where the water moves from the city service line into the school feeder line(s) those lines could be made of lead and contaminate the water. Or, inside the school plumbing could be lead pipes, lead solder, or other lead related plumbing fixtures.
So, to find out if your child’s school water is safe from lead you need to test every faucet. Has your school conducted that level of testing? Probably not. It’s easy to do and yes it costs money but far less than it would cost if children were exposed and became sick.
No level of lead is exposure is safe for children. We need to protect our children from lead that can cause learning delays, especially in their schools.
Children are required to attend school, but schools aren’t required to test that their water is safe for children to drink! It is outrageous that in a country like the United States there is no federal law that requires schools to test the quality of their water at each discharge location.
That’s why we need a national bill that requires schools to test their water and protect the health of our children where they are trying to learn. Senator Duckworth (IL) has proposed a bill that would require schools to test their water, share results with communities, and fund projects that replace lead pipes or provide filters.
The Get the Lead Out of Schools Act mandates all schools to test for lead in their water and provides action grants to fix any contamination. Protect our children—contact your federal senators and make sure they support the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act when it goes to the Senate Floor.
For years, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice has been mentoring a movement, empowering people and preventing harm to human health caused by exposure to environmental threats.
Included in this work is CHEJ’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership. Started in 2002, this program targets students in schools and provides a framework for students to become environmental leaders and contribute to positive change in their school community.
The Green Flag program gives students from kindergarten to twelfth grade the opportunity to learn environmental concepts, investigate environmental practices in their school and identify solutions to make their school safer and healthier. Working as a team, students begin by conducting an environmental audit using a comprehensive form provided by CHEJ to assess their school’s environmental practices. The team then selects an area they want to focus on that will make an impact at their school. The four target areas are non-toxic pest management, indoor air quality, least toxic cleaning products, and reuse, reduce, recycling. Students learn practical life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and public speaking. With each positive step, students are presented with an award culminating in the Green Flag Award for Environmental Leadership.
Earlier this year the Green Flag Team at the Saklan School in Moraga, CA satisfactorily completed Level 3 of the Green Flag School Program for Indoor Air and was awarded an Indoor Air Quality patch for their Green Flag. These middle school students were quite excited about achieving their award which is their second Green Flag award. They are planning to move on to acquire a third patch this fall. The Roots & Shoots Club at the Tom McCall Upper Elementary School in Forest Grove, OR also participated in the Green Flag Schools program this past year. Their Green Flag team satisfactorily completed Level One and was awarded a Green Flag this past spring. They plan to select one of the four project issue areas this fall so that they can acquire a patch to place on their flag.
The Green Flag start-up kit provides all the information you need to get started on earning environmental awards including facts sheets on school environmental issues and an environmental survey tool. More information can be found at http://chej.org/take-action/help/green-flags/.
We hope you will consider adopting this program at your school.
Two great new pieces of activist reporting came out last week, and both dovetail perfectly with our work to get PVC, the poison plastic (a k a vinyl), out of NYC schools. Check them out!
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“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” a feature article in Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben, lays out three numbers that may well define the future of our planet: how much warmer we can “safely” allow the climate to get; how much carbon we can burn without going over; and how much carbon is currently planning to be burned by the oil and gas industry. (Hint: that last one is about five times larger than the second one.)
McKibben’s frightening conclusion is that unless the international community (i.e. we) demands that Exxon, Chesapeake, and the other oil, gas, and coal giants keep about 80% of their current reserves in the ground, unused, uncontrollable climate destabilization is inevitable. Problem is, that would mean about $20 trillion in losses for these companies, giving them roughly unlimited financial (if not human) incentive to block legislation forcing them to do it.
In short, we have our work cut out for us. Enter the latest installment from Story of Stuff Project:
The animated web-comic “The Story of Change” by Annie Leonard and her team takes viewers through a six-and-a-half minute tour of how citizens can bring about the environmentally sustainable, people-centered, non-toxic, socially equitable economy that we want.
Her prescription? [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Big idea] + [people] + [action] = CHANGE. It’s a convincing argument, and one that we’ll need to take to heart if we’re going to keep the fossil fuel industry’s equation from stealing the future.
So what’s the connection to PVC-free schools for New York City?
First, it can save energy.
The vinyl 3-ring binders, floor tiles, and examination gloves found throughout the NYC school system don’t just release harmful toxins into the air. They also take enormous amounts of energy to produce. PVC plastic is made up of about 40% chlorine, and chlorine production is one of the most energy intensive (not to mention dangerous) industrial processes in the world. According to Joe Thornton, PhD, of the Healthy Building Network, “Chlorine production for PVC consumes an estimated 47 billion kilowatt hours per year — equivalent to the annual total output of eight medium-sized nuclear power plants.”
By spending its multi-million dollar purchasing budget on safer, cost-effective alternatives to PVC, the NYC school system can better protect its students, teachers, and staff, and help drive producers away from this costly, energy-intensive material.
Second, we’re using a big idea, building people power, and taking action!
We’re bringing together parents, teachers, students, doctors, environmental justice activists, labor unions, and more to stand behind a clear message: PVC is the wrong choice for NYC school supplies and construction materials. Click here to join the effort!