A few months ago, USA Today released a report entitled, "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools,” that examined the emissions of toxic chemicals around schools across the country. The report, published last December, showed that the air around at least 435 U.S. schools is more toxic than the air outside Meredith Hitchens Elementary, an Ohio school that closed in 2005. At Hitchens, the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times above what the state considered acceptable. "The Smokestack Effect" also showed how schools rank in their exposure to cancer-causing emissions and other toxic chemicals. USA Today based their findings on information reported to the government by 20,000 industrial plants.
So in response to this report, the EPA is launching a $2.25 million program to analyze the air around American schools. "[The report] raised important questions that merit investigation and that's what we're doing," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. "We want parents to know that the places their children live, play and learn are safe." The EPA study will involve taking samples outside schools in small towns such as Story City, Iowa, and Toledo, Ore., and in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. Monitoring will begin sometime in April and be phased in over the next three months.