A Report by Healthy Schools Network, titled “Sick Schools 2009: America’s Continuing Environmental Health” [pdf here] provides a state-by-state analysis of environmental health risks in the nation’s schools.  The report begins as follows:

Crisis for Children

We know that healthy school buildings contribute to student learning, reduce health and operating costs, and ultimately, increase school quality and competitiveness. However, 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 teachers) sick and handicap their ability to learn.

Differences in school resources for maintaining schools exacerbate social and economic inequities and academic disparities.3 However, “poor children, in poor schools with a poor environment may have poor academic achievement. To assume that the cause of their lack of achievement is solely due to curricular and teaching deficiencies ignores other strong confounding variables in the child’s environment.”

You can download the report by clicking here.

Newsweek ran a story, “Heavy Metal High School,” this week on the mounting evidence of health risks in America’s schools.  It begins this way:

The elementary, middle, and high schools in Cle Elum, Wash.—a town on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains with a poverty rate twice the national average—were built across from the trash transfer station. They are also near a washing station once used by coal-mining operations, which left hills of black waste containing arsenic, cadmium, and lead. The elementary school opened without heat, and the boilers that were ultimately installed did not burn cleanly and released exhaust into an intake for the ventilation system located feet away. Construction issues led to water seeping into the building, and mold grew throughout the school.

All of this is according to Thelma Simon, a parent who removed her son, Kyle, from the system in 1995 because of his constant asthma attacks, and former teachers who also claim to have been sickened by the buildings. Other kids and teachers reported symptoms including mouth blisters, rashes, and cysts, and teachers in the high school ultimately filed a lawsuit. But though the school district made some improvements in response to the suit, Simon and teachers who left the school system for health reasons say the underlying problems remain unaddressed, and they continue to hear reports of the schools’ causing illness. . . .

This should be a one-of-a-kind story. But tales of schools rife with mold and toxins from building materials, as well as schools built on former industrial sites or in the shadow of chemical factories, can be found all across the country.

Read the entire story here.

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