Girl Planting seeds

Moving Ahead, Let's Ensure All Schools Are Environmentally Safe and Healthy

nhs_btn_or_(2)By Deirdre Imus, 3-10-20
As parents teachers, educators, and environmental health advocates, we must all continue to work towards ensuring healthier learning environments for all children, this National Healthy Schools Day, and every day! This Day we are looking back at our past successes and moving forward to put in place strong policies to ensure that every child and school employee has clean air and clean water. 

Every school day, 55 million children and 7 million adults — mostly women and children—totaling 20% of the total U.S. population inclusive of 99% of all children—spend their days inside school buildings. The poorest children ensure the worst conditions and the buildings are persistently in poor condition. 

Moving forward, we know there is a long way to go. Only 12 states have policies on green cleaning and disinfecting; only 23 have substantial indoor air quality programs; two dozen require schools to have safer pest control plans (IPM). Few if any have invested in climate resiliency. Testing at the tap for lead is still required by only 11 states plus the District of Columbia. What about lead paint stabilization? Asbestos inspections? High toxic PCBs in light ballasts and caulk? And where are the resources to clean schools and educate home-bound children in the event of more coronavirus cases?

We need to act now to ensure that all children have healthy school environments in which to learn, play, and grow. It’s new_classroom_shutterstock_1085383013time to ask yourself and your children’s school administrators: is this school building clean, dry, quiet, and ready for all its occupants? Better buildings can boost attendance and save taxpayer money.

Therefore, it’simportant we continue to help strengthen and expand the US EPA’s unique programs focused on providing educational programs in the states and regionally to help address exposures to children and personnel in school/childcare facilities. US EPA’s proven, voluntary programs educate schools and childcare centers on how to manage their facilities to prevent and identify common problems such as indoor air pollution, lead in drinking water, and more. The EPA programs may also support public health services for children with suspected environmental exposures. The agency has a twenty-year history of successes in educating PK-12 and childcare owner-operators and personnel, as well as NGOs and state and local health agencies.

On April 7, the 18th National Healthy Schools Day,  Tell your US Senator to increase the funding to EPA’s Healthy Schools Programs to $1 per child or $65M over last year’s EPA budget.  EPA has the proven programs but lacks the funds and staff. It has never been more important to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and health of our children when they are away from home 30-40 hours every week. 

For more information about National Healthy Schools Day, visit www.NationalHealthySchoolsDay.org.

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