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EPA Posts First Data from One of Four Schools in NY and NJ

Release Date: 10/01/2009
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with state air quality agencies, is now monitoring at all four schools in the region that were selected as part of EPA's Schools Air Toxics Monitoring Initiative, and it has early data back from one school in New York City. The monitoring is part of a national initiative, in which the Agency is monitoring the outdoor air at 63 schools in 22 states. The initiative is designed to help EPA and the states learn whether outdoor air quality near the schools poses health concerns for children and staff, and help reduce emissions of air toxics.

The first set of monitoring data from one school, located in New York City, has been posted on the Agency's Web site. At this school, Intermediate School 143, air is already monitored as part of New York State’s normal air monitoring network. Intermediate School 143 was chosen for this further monitoring because it is representative of many schools located in large metropolitan areas that are heavily congested by traffic. It is being monitored for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can decrease air quality within a region and adversely impact public health. Preliminary results show that levels of key air toxics at this school are below levels of short-term concern. The new data is posted at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/schools.html.

EPA scientists advise against drawing conclusions at this point for most of the pollutants being monitored. However, the Agency is providing information early on acrolein, which EPA anticipates is likely to be elevated at most schools. Acrolein is a widespread pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Elevated acrolein is not limited to schools: preliminary results from the 40 schools that are monitoring for acrolein are similar to levels from air toxics monitors in other areas of the country.

EPA has been regulating the emissions of acrolein from industrial facilities and vehicles since 1990. The agency already has seen reductions in acrolein emissions and expects to see more reductions in the future, as rules such as the mobile source air toxics and heavy duty highway vehicle rules are fully phased in.

EPA plans to continue monitoring for acrolein at various locations across the country. This information will help as the agency looks for other ways to reduce acrolein emissions.

Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for health concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants. EPA will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete.

Outdoor air at each of the schools will be monitored for 60 days, and air quality monitors will take a minimum of 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use the information gathered in the initiative to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring or enforcement action where appropriate.

The remaining three schools being monitored in EPA Region 2 are Olean Middle School in Olean, New York, Mabel Homes Middle School in Elizabeth, N.J. and Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, N.J.

To learn more about EPA’s efforts to study outdoor air near schools, visit: http://www.epa.gov/schoolair

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