EPA tests of air outside of schools find problems

by Colonel on June 9, 2011

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”   The federal government‘s first attempt to assess the dangers from air pollution around schools is nearing completion, and the findings underscore the need for more extensive air monitoring, especially in pollution hot spots, the head of the EPA says.

Most of the air monitoring completed so far has not found dangerous levels of pollution, the EPA says, but outside a handful of schools, the tests showed concentrations of toxic chemicals higher than what the government typically considers to be safe for long-term exposure. The EPA’s study came in response to a 2008 USA TODAY investigation that identified hundreds of schools where the air appeared to be rife with industrial pollution. In the past three years, the EPA has gathered air samples outside 63 schools in 22 states.

Among the most troubling results:

•Samples taken outside three schools in Ohio and West Virginia showed elevated levels of manganese, a neurotoxin that can cause mental and emotional problems. At East Elementary School in East Liverpool, Ohio, samples collected in 2009 showed average levels well above what the EPA considers safe for long-term exposure.

•Tests outside at least 15 schools detected high levels of acrolein, a chemical that can irritate the eyes and throat, and that — in a far more potent form — had been used as a chemical weapon during World War I. The EPA suspects those readings were caused by problems with the tests but the agency is taking more samples to be sure.

•Samples near a Portland, Ore., school found “slightly elevated” levels of cadmium, a carcinogen. The state Department of Environmental Quality has detected cadmium levels nearby before but has said it cannot identify the source.   “

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