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Like many parents, when I saw the huge front page articles in USA Today about the possible health risks related to toxics in the air around schools across the country, I immediately used the online search tool in the article to check out how my daughter's school ranked. The result? Not so good.

Of course then the question is what can I do about it other than move away from where I live? Turns out there is a lot I can do for my daughter's school and for my whole community.

HELP THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) DO ITS JOB: Ramona Trovato, the former director of the Office of Children's Health Protection at the EPA, says: "There are health and safety standards for adults in the workplace, but there are no standards for children at schools…[and]…"If a parent complains, there's no law that requires anybody to do anything. It's beyond belief."

Sign a letter to Congress, and to the leaders of President-elect Obama's transition team for the environment. Ask them to make protecting our children a top priority:

GET THE FACTS ON THE QUALITY OF AIR AROUND SCHOOLS IN YOUR AREA: When you go to the web page to sign on to the letter, you can also find out about the air quality for your local schools. How? USA Today created an online searchable database were you can find the level of toxics in the air at almost 128,000 public, private and parochial schools around the country. At some schools, the level of toxics in the air outside the schools is high enough that it could put students as risk of health problems ranging from asthma to cancer. Look up your school district, and read about how to understand the data.

(If you have a child in a school with potential problems and want to do more, share the information with principal and other parents. You can also call the president of your local school board or your city/town council to urge them to directly monitor toxic emissions exposure. And if you live in an industrial community, Global Community Monitor is a non-profit organization that helps residents monitor their own neighborhoods to reduce health threats.)

Please forward this blog to your friends and parent networks so they can check their schools as well, and urge them to sign MomsRising's letter to President-elect Obama's transition team.

Thank you for caring about the health and safety of all our country's children,

PS: The Center for Health and Environmental Justice has more excellent information on advocacy on this issue.

PPS: We'd like to extend our appreciation to Senator Barbara Boxer (Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) who said she will "focus on this whole question of children and toxics" during confirmation hearings for whomever President-elect Barack Obama nominates to run the EPA.

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