Schools, apparently, can be bad for you. Yesterday, USA Today released a study called The Smokestack Effect showing that 435 U.S. schools are in “toxic hot spots” — with pollution bad enough to put children at a greater risk of developing cancer.

At the seven schools with the worst pollution, “USA TODAY’s monitoring showed pollution at levels that could make people sick or significantly increase their risk of cancer if they were exposed to the chemicals for long periods.” Scary!

The problem is due to industrial pollution — and our decision to put schools near these sources of pollution. Sadly, local school board members don’t have the resources or knowledge to determine safe locations for schools. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was told to develop the nation’s first-ever school siting guidelines, but those aren’t due until June 2009.

You can find out how the schools near you are faring by checking USA Today’s interactive map. And if that moves you take local action, find out what your state’s policies on school siting are by visiting Child Proofing Our Communities, a site put together by environmental justice nonprofit Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. Once you get the lowdown, take the action steps that the CHEJ recommends to work towards passing local and state protective school siting policies.

Photo: mhaithaca

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