A new report, One-third of schools built in air pollution danger zones, released this month found that one third of public schools are built within 400 meters of a major highway. Great- you might think – easy access right?
Well yes, easy access but not so great for your children’s health. Research studies have shown that environmental pollution, like exhaust particles, can leave school age children more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
“This is a major public health concern that should be given serious consideration in future urban development, transportation planning and environmental policies,” says Sergey Grinshpun, PhD, principal investigator of the study and professor of environmental health at UC. To protect the health of young children with developing lungs, he says new schools should be built further from major highways.
This research examined 8000 schools serving 6 million school age children across the country, in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis and San Antonio and indicates that the problem is far more widespread than was previously thought. Asthma is at epidemic levels in this country and part of the reason, especially for children is homes and schools built in increasing proximity to highways.
Close to 6.3 million children in the U.S. under 18 currently have asthma!
Those of us based in the Los Angeles area have been hearing about this for awhile and seeing the impact in our children. Children in the port areas of Los Angeles/Long Beach with schools built close to freeways heavily traveled by trucks carrying containers of toys, clothes and household goods from China and other Asian countries have some of the highest asthma rates in the country.
According to recent studies by scientists at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, children living close to freeways have a two-fold increase in risk for asthma. Teens growing up in southern California communities with high rates of pollution from traffic have a five-fold risk of reduced lung function.
How many children in this area have asthma. Try 15- 20%! That’s one in every five children! And I see it every day. Inhalers are a way of life in my area.
What can you do to protect your child?
“Health risk can be mitigated through proper urban planning, but that doesn’t erase the immediate risk to school-age children attending schools that are too close to highways right now,” Grinshpun said. “Existing schools should be retrofitted with air filtration systems that will reduce students’ exposure to traffic pollutants.”
Work with your school and your public building council. Write to your City Council.
Protect our children.
Photo Credit: spcummings at Flickr Under creative Commons License
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