"...more and more schools, parents and government officials have contacted us for recommendations on affordable air purifiers to improve school air quality." says Gershon Katz, air quality expert at AllerAir.The researchers found that Michigan public schools located in areas with the state's highest industrial air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates---an indicator of poor health---as well as the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards.
The researchers examined the distribution of all 3,660 public elementary, middle, junior high and high schools in the state and found that 62.5 percent of them were located in places with high levels of air pollution from industrial sources.
Minority students appear to bear the greatest burden, according to a research team led by Paul Mohai of the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and Byoung-Suk Kweon of the U-M Institute for Social Research.
The researchers found that while 44.4percent of all white students in the state attend schools located in the top 10 percent of the most polluted locations in the state, 81.5 percent of all African American schoolchildren and 62.1 percent of all Hispanic students attend schools in the most polluted zones.
Children in general are known to be more vulnerable than adults to the effects of pollution. Exposure to environmental pollutants during important times of physiological development can lead to long-lasting health problems, dysfunction and disease, the experts said.
"Our findings underscore the need to expand the concept of environmental justice to include children as a vulnerable population. Moreover, our findings show that children of color are disproportionately at risk," the authors wrote. "There is a need for proactive school policies that will protect children from exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution and other environmental hazards."
The authors offer four policy recommendations to address the problem:
1) All potential school sites should be thoroughly analyzed, including tests of soil, water and air quality.
2) Policies should be enacted to insist on a minimum distance between sources of pollution and school locations.
3) Environmental mitigation policies should be adopted to reduce children's potential exposure to pollution.
4) Oversight and enforcement at the national, state and local levels needs to ensure better school environments.
Ninety-five percent of the estimated industrial air pollution around schools comes from 12 chemicals: diisocyanates, manganese, sulfuric acid, nickel, chlorine, chromium, trimethylbenzene, hydrochloric acid, molybdenum trioxide, lead, cobalt and glycol ethers.
These pollutants come from a variety of sources, including the motor vehicle, steel and chemical- manufacturing industries, power plants, rubber and plastic products manufacturers, and lumber and wood products manufacturers. The 12 chemicals are suspected of producing a wide variety of health effects, including increased risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental and neurological disorders, as well as cancer.
"What many people don't realize is that airborne pollution, chemicals in particular, also trigger asthma attacks and allergy-like symptoms leading to illness and absenteeism," says Gershon Katz, air quality expert at AllerAir. "That's why more and more schools, parents and government officials have contacted us for recommendations on affordable air purifiers to improve school air quality."
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