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EPA Honors Pinellas County Schools for Implementing Exemplary Indoor Air Quality Program

Release Date: 12/06/2004
Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421, harris-young.dawn@epa.gov Laura Niles, (404 ) 562-8353, niles.laura@epa.gov
Atlanta, GA, December 6, 2004 ---  Pinellas County Schools in Largo, Florida is among 12 schools and districts selected to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) 2004 Excellence Award to protect indoor air quality for kids at school. The award was presented at EPA’s 5th Annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Symposium.

Florida’s climate presents special challenges for IAQ, an issue with which Pinellas County Schools (PCS) is well aware. More than 10 years ago, a major mold outbreak in an elementary school caused an epidemic of bronchitis, headaches, and ear infections, forced the school to close for 18 months, and cost $1 million to repair. The school was only a year old at the time. Located in Florida’s most densely populated county, PCS also faces tight budget constraints, and is forced to rely on temporary buildings. After the mold outbreak, PCS adopted a management plan and appointed a single coordinator to standardize responses to IAQ concerns. The emphasis is on prevention and prioritization. Integrated Pest Management, radon screening, and other procedures help to mitigate future problems. The district initially uses short-term fixes to address any problems that arise, and then seeks to identify long-term solutions.

The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Excellence Award is EPA’s most prestigious award recognizing exemplary indoor air quality programs and commitment to providing a healthy learning environment for students and staff. The Excellence Award Winners are selected from hundreds of schools and districts nationwide that have implemented IAQ management programs and have seen dramatic improvements in indoor air quality. 

In 1995, EPA developed the voluntary IAQ TfS Kit and Program in response to government studies highlighting the deteriorating conditions of the nation’s schools and the alarming rise in asthma cases, particularly among school and preschool age children. Asthma alone accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. Today, one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. The IAQ TfS Kit is a flexible, comprehensive resource designed to help school staff identify, resolve, and prevent IAQ problems and is available to schools at no cost. Currently, an estimated 25,000 schools and school districts across the country are utilizing the Kit.

Approximately 500 school representatives; health specialists; technical and environmental experts; federal, state, and local government personnel; and non-profit organization members participated in the 2004 Symposium. Participants discussed how to implement IAQ programs in a school setting, including communications strategies, mold remediation, facilities management and school building design, student performance, financing and asthma management. For more information about EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program, please visit www.epa.gov/iaq/schools.