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Renee Blanchard's picture

I still can’'t get over that there are so few and no federal law preventing the building of schools on or near sources of pollution no matter how many times I say it out loud or write it down. And to add to all the rational and simple explanations that come to mind to why there should be laws and official policies that every community follows to prevent this from happening, yesterday I read about a study from the University of Northern Iowa that states children who attend schools within a 20 mile radius to a superfund site is nearly twice as likely to be at risk for autism.

Environmental contamination affects children differently than adults. Children are more vulnerable, breathing more contaminated air per pound of body weight and with bodies and brains still developing. Despite the clear threat Superfund sites pose to children, there are currently no federal laws to prevent schools from being built in close proximity to these sites.

The Center for Health, Environment, & Justice (that’s where I work) has been working on school siting issues since its founding out of the Love Canal crisis that closed two elementary schools due to contamination in 1978 and 1979 respectively. Thirty years after our Executive Director, Lois Gibbs, organized her community around this shocking issue, EPA is due to release national school siting guidelines in June 2009, but in a small meeting in Washington DC last month announced that these guidelines will be delayed until the middle of 2010.

As concerned moms, sisters, and daughters, (and fathers, brothers, and sons), we must take action to protect the health of our children in our own communities. With no federal guidance on this issue, it is up to us to engage our family, friends, and neighbors on this issue. Attend city council and school board meetings. Propose to your school district the idea of hosting a hearing just on the issue of safe school siting. Call your school district Superintendent and ask when he or she will adopt a safe school siting policy.

If you are in Washington DC on Tuesday April 28, you should join us for a special briefing on schools iting. CHEJ in coalition with American Federation of Teachers, Global Community Monitor, and Natural Resources Defense Council is hosting a briefing called “Sources of Pollution and School Siting”.

But even if you are not in the DC area, you can still support communities working to establish safe school siting policies by signing on to CHEJ’s Principles for Safe School Siting.


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