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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Air pollution in schools

Can the air in schools damage children’s lungs? The possibility exists, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine report that found carbon particles similar to those in ambient air in the airways of children, and increased levels of carbon correlate with decreased lung function in children, whose lungs develop steadily during childhood. While overall air quality has improved in urban environments due to vehicle emission controls and cleaner burning fuels, children can be exposed to dangerous levels of air contamination in schools built near busy roadways and other sources of pollution.

The report concludes that research into the specific components of air pollution may enable policymakers to institute more specific control strategies. In the meantime, school officials should take steps to keep their children away from polluted air.

The Environmental Protection Agency has prepared an Indoor Air Quality Tool for Schools that allows school staff to improve air quality in schools at little or no cost, using practical applications, such as a fact sheet on pollution sources and forms to aid staff in responding to incidences and notifying students and parents. For more information on this tool kit, call (202) 512-1800.