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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 

Lead

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

Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The EPA estimates that nearly 70,000 classrooms in the United States have dangerous short-term levels of radon gas. It can only be detected through testing.

HERE TO HELP

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 15% of schools across the state surveyed had tested for radon in the past 10 years. Of those 22 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. 11 out of the 22 school districts 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.

Free Radon Testing Tools
for Schools

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

Mold

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.

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Pesticides

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. 

Ventilation

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.

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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.