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Tips to Make School Environments Healthier

Release Date: 10/02/2006
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – For parents, grandparents, and caregivers every day involves looking out for a child’s health. Each year October is set aside as a special time for agencies and organizations who also work to protect children’s health to make a special effort to let people, and school officials, know about programs that might be helpful to them.

This year, the theme for Children's Health Month is “Promoting Healthy School Environments.” EPA has several programs for schools that can help improve the health and productivity of students and staff.

“Children may be more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults because their bodily systems are still developing. In addition children eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals,” said Donald S. Welsh, mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “Also, children spend a lot of time indoors, so it is important to have good air quality indoors and outdoors.”


Here are some EPA programs to consider:

      Tools for Schools Kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to improve indoor air problems at little or no cost, using straightforward activities and in-house staff.

      Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool: HealthySEAT is a software program designed to ensure a safe and healthy environment in schools. HealthySEAT provides a healthy environment and helps schools monitor all of its environmental health and safety issues.

      The Clean School Bus Initiative: The goal of Clean School Bus USA is to reduce both children's exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses.

      Toxics-Free Schools: Schools use chemicals in classrooms, science laboratories and vocational shops as well as in facility maintenance. Toxic chemicals such as mercury are also prevalent in medical equipment, lighting and electrical devices found in schools. EPA encourages teachers and administrators to use safe storage and disposal of chemicals and equipment. If possible, EPA encourages schools to replace toxic chemicals with less toxic or non-toxic chemicals.

      Asthma information: Environmental asthma triggers commonly found in school buildings are cockroaches and other pests, and mold from excess moisture. Secondhand smoke and dust mites are other asthma triggers found in schools. EPA has an Integrated Pest Management Program for Schools which is a safe and usually less costly option for effective pest management in a school community. A school IPM program uses common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in the school buildings and grounds. For more information on IPM visit (SPACE) http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/ipm/ and for more information on asthma, visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asthma/about.hmtl.


      Web casts: Starting on Oct. 5 on these school related issues will be available for parents, educators, facility managers, school administrators, architects, design engineers, school nurses, teachers, staff and healthcare practitioners. During the webcasts, participants are connected through the telephone and an internet connection on the computer and will be able to participate in the discussion and ask questions of the speakers. The webcasts are on Oct. 5, 11, 19, and 26 between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. To sign up for one or more of the web casts visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/chm.htm.

      Lead Poisoning is Preventable: Another key program that focuses on children’s health in the homes is lead poisoning prevention. If parents live in housing built before 1978, the EPA encourages them to get their children tested for lead and their homes inspected for lead hazards. In addition, if homeowners are remodeling an older home, they are encouraged to talk to their contractor about ways to prevent lead poisoning during home renovations. For more information about lead poisoning prevention, call 1-800-424-LEAD.

      In addition to the programs to improve the physical environment, there is a fun website for students who are curious about the environment:

      Environmental Kids Club is a website with links to games, science, math, an art room, ask EPA, A-Z index, middle school, and much more, visit it at http://www.epa.gov/kids/.
      For a complete overview on children’s health issues see EPA’s website at http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/homepage.htm



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