EPA Studying Outdoor Air Near Schools

An updated round of results from air toxics monitoring at two New Jersey schools and one New York school are now available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site at www.epa.gov/schoolair. A total of four schools in EPA’s Region 2 were selected as part of the agency's national Schools Air Toxics Initiative. The initiative, which is monitoring 63 schools in 22 states, is designed to help EPA and state governments learn if long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health concerns for school children and staff. Early sampling at all four schools in EPA Region 2 show that levels of air toxics are below levels of short-term concern.

The study design calls for outdoor air monitoring at the schools for 60 days and for air quality monitors to collect at least 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use this information to help determine the next steps, which could include more monitoring, if needed.

The four schools being monitored in EPA Region 2 are IS 143 in Manhattan, N.Y.; Olean Middle School in Olean, N.Y.; Mabel Homes Middle School in Elizabeth, N.J.; and Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, N.J. EPA is monitoring the air around these schools for several contaminants associated with industrial and mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and airplanes.

The agency said it is extending monitoring at a number of schools across the country for a group of pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A malfunction in monitoring equipment at those schools caused some VOC samples to become contaminated. EPA and its state and local partners will take additional samples to ensure that the monitors provide an accurate picture of VOC levels in the outdoor air. In EPA’s Region 2, it may only be necessary to extend sampling at the New York City and the two New Jersey schools to make up for the invalid samples, the agency said.

EPA scientists warn against drawing conclusions at this point since the project is designed to show if long-term, not short-term, exposure poses health risks to school children and staff. Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be evaluated for potential health concerns from long-term exposure to these pollutants. The agency said it will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete. For more information about EPA’s efforts to study outdoor air near schools, visit www.epa.gov/schoolair.

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