December 30, 2008

Study: 435 U.S. schools have air hazards

The air around 435 U.S. schools is saturated with carcinogens more than 50 times higher than state standards allow, a newspaper investigation found.

About half of the nation's 127,800 public, private and parochial schools are close enough to industrial sites that they could be affected by a chemical accident, USA Today reported.

Many are within blocks of companies that store or release toxic chemicals, it said.

What we're seeing all across the country is these schools being built on or near toxic chemicals because the land is cheap, Center for Health, Environment & Justice Executive Director Lois Gibbs told the newspaper.

But we have a moral responsibility to children, said Gibbs, who helped launch an investigation 30 years ago that found tons of toxic waste under her children's school in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Twenty-three states put no limits on building schools near environmental hazards, a 2006 study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and done by Rhode Island Legal Services found.