Hazard Identification

Healthy Schools PA, a program of Women for a Healthy Environment, was created to address environmental risk factors in the school environment and to provide solutions that result in a healthy setting, one in which children can thrive and learn, free from toxins. Some of these risk factors include cleaning supplies, mold, building renovations, bus idling, maintenance equipment, pesticides or radon.

To learn more about this program, visit the Healthy Schools PA website 

Environmental Hazards Map

This mapping initiative uses publicly available data to identify potential environmental hazards located within a one-mile radius of a public school building in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region. This ten-county region includes: over 336,000 children attending public schools, 674 public school buildings, 128 school districts and 7,040 square miles. This initiative mapped the following potential environmental hazards: air emission sources, gas wells (unconventional also known as Marcellus wells, as well as compressor stations), mining operations and active rail lines. This first phase reviewed public schools, charter schools and technical schools. Data was collected from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (gas wells, mining hazards), the PAMAP program (rail lines) and the Environmental Protection Agency (air emission sources).


Municipalities across the country are being impacted by the presence of lead in pipes. Children exposed to lead are at risk of severely impeded cognitive development and lifelong learning challenges.

PA School Code: Required Testing for Lead in Drinking Water

Old plumbing, showing pipes and valves covered in flaking, green paint


Radon in Schools - What You Need to Know

Get the facts about radon, a radioactive gas found in various buildings, including schools, homes and offices.
  • EPA estimates 1 in 5 schools classrooms have a short-term radon level at or above 4 pci/L.
  • According to Women for a Healthy Environment’s State of the Environmental Health in Southwestern PA Schools Report, only 20% of schools across the state surveyed had tested for radon in the past 10 years. Of those 65 school districts, radon testing occurred inconsistently – testing occurred in a handful of classrooms, in an entire building, or just on one floor of 1 building. 38% of the schools districts that conducted testing found at least 1 classroom with a short-term radon level above 4 pci/L.
  • Average cost to test 1 building according to EPA standards is under $1,500 – and less for smaller school buildings.
  • While Pennsylvania does not currently require radon testing in schools, other states have set an example to follow. 13 states have passed laws related to radon in schools. 6 of them require mitigation. 9 require schools to test for radon, while the remaining 4 recommend testing.

Radon in Schools Workgroup

Radon could be a serious threat to your school. The Radon in Schools Workgroup recommends the following policy solutions to radon exposure:

  • Require all school buildings and early learning centers test for radon after any new construction or major renovation OR every 5 years, whichever comes first.
  • Create an advisory board with medical and public health professionals, certified radon scientists and other experts to provide guidance to schools on best practices and health-based standards.
  • Require school districts and early learning centers to submit plans for remediation to the DEP if radon levels are found above 4 pCi/L.  
  • Require schools and early learning centers make their testing data and any applicable plans for remediation public within 90 days of receiving results.
The United States EPA offers key drivers for success and strategies in action. Visit their website to learn more about managing radon in schools.


There is no federal regulation concerning mold remediation in schools and no state policy in PA. Sinus inflammation, nosebleeds, respiratory diseases and irritation of existing asthma symptoms and allergies can result from mold. Moisture and mold can enter schools and buildings through any structural weakness (like leaky pipes or windows). Even dead mold can cause reactions in some people, so mold must be removed, as well as killed.



Many chemical pesticides have been associated with health and environmental issues, including negative dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive and endocrine effects. Residues of pesticides can be found in a great variety of everyday foods and beverages, including cooked meals, water, wine, fruit juices, refreshments and animal feeds.

The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body. The pesticide toxicity categories are determined by the effects caused if the pesticide is consumed, inhaled, or placed in contact with the skin.

Our vision is that every child can learn and develop in an environment that is safe, healthy and toxic-free. We empower communities, schools, and childcare centers to properly practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM), promote the use of safe, pesticide-free alternatives for managing pests and weeds and educate community members on the health and environmental impacts of pesticide exposure. Learn more about our vision and why you should take the Good Riddance RoundUp Pledge. 

Indoor Air Quality

Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents (1 in 10) in the United States and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. Air quality greatly impacts children’s education.

An estimated 50% of the nation’s schools have problems linked to poor indoor air quality. Indoor air quality can negatively affect children’s ability to consistently attend school and learn.


Building Materials

A recent United States Government Accountability Office report found the average age of our public school buildings is 40 years old. Whether a school district is renovating a school, building a new facility or maintaining existing buildings, many environmental factors contribute to poor air quality and negative health impacts.

Hazard Fact Sheets

Whether a school district is renovating a school, building a new facility or maintaining existing buildings, parking lots, playgrounds and fields, many environmental factors contribute to poor air quality and negative health impacts.

May Day 2022

May 4, 2022

7:00 pm – 8:00 pm – University Club

Join Us!

WHE presents Ms. Leah Thomas, author of the “The Intersectional Environmentalist” and founder of eco-lifestyle blog @greengirlleah. Ms. Thomas uses her passion for writing and creativity to explore and advocate for the critical yet often overlooked relationship between social justice and environmentalism.