Last year, USA Today released a controversial report that led many parents to question the safety of their kids at school. But unlike many of the reports of the last few years, this one had nothing to do with metal detectors or bullying. It had to do with the quality of the air children are breathing at school.

The report, "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools," took a look at how emissions of toxic chemicals may affect the air at schools across the country. The report also showed how schools rank in their exposure to cancer-causing emissions and other toxic chemicals. USA Today based its findings on information reported to the government by 20,000 industrial plants.

As you can imagine, many schools — particualrly those mentioned in the report for their proximity to air polluted with toxic chemicals — are alarmed. In April, the EPA responded to the report by launching a $2.25 million program to analyze the air around American schools

But many school districts and communities aren't content to wait for the EPA's results and recommendations. Some localities are taking matters into their own hands with independent testing and even lawsuits against the plants and factories suspected for causing the contamination. According to the latest article in USA Today, controversies are brewing in Georgetown, S.C.; Cincinatti, Ohio; Gary, Ind.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Erie, Pa.; Middletown, Ohio; and Natrona Heights, Pa. 

According to an EPA representative, the agency is working on guidelines to help school districts determine what to consider when identifying sites for new schools. Also, the agency will likely offer guidance about whether certain industries should be sited near existing schools.  

Controversy ignites over testing schools for toxins
Communities battle over toxic emissions detected near schools.