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EPA Will Go Back to School With Students

Release Date: 8/13/2003
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be going back to school with our children this fall.

EPA provides a variety of school-related resources – from educational websites for students and teachers to providing training to improve indoor air quality, creating cleaner air to breathe, and a healthier environment for teachers and students.

“EPA promotes children’s health with many programs to eliminate hazardous materials in our classrooms and to help educate the citizens of tomorrow about environmental issues,” explained Donald S. Welsh, mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

Indoor air quality is a big concern for parents because children spend 90 percent of their time indoors, a good portion of that in school. Modern insulation saves fuel, but it’s important not to seal a building so tight that the air grows stale and promotes the growth of mold and bacteria.

One program – Tools for Schools – sends EPA technical advisors into public and private schools to teach good housekeeping tips to janitors and maintenance staff. This includes making sure furnaces don’t emit carbon monoxide, getting fresh air into classrooms, and properly managing dangerous chemicals in school labs.

EPA’s public information center (PIC) is a great resource for teachers throughout the region. Every year, EPA sends out thousands of environmental pamphlets, curriculum tips, and scientific fact sheets to teachers, environmental education centers and kids doing homework. To contact the PIC, call toll-free at 800-438-2474, or call directly at 215-814-5663. Also, check out EPA’s education website for activities, tips, and teaching aids at:

Speaking of homework, check out other EPA websites, which are loaded with good information about every aspect of protecting human health and the environment. Learn ways to restore estuaries, how wetlands keep water healthy, how Superfund sites are cleaned up, and much more. Start at or go to the mid-Atlantic region’s site directly at and click it from there.

This fall many classrooms throughout the region will be teaching students about our environment. Some of these programs have been funded through EPA’s environmental education grants. These are programs to train teachers about the wonders of wetlands, to help non-profit organizations team up with schools to give students hands-on experience through field trips, and create outdoor classrooms to teach environmental science.

To keep children safe in old buildings, EPA requires all schools to have an asbestos management plan, which includes identifying the location of all asbestos-containing material. This way during any renovations, building contractors will be aware of where asbestos is located and therefore reduce the potential exposure to harmful asbestos.

Under EPA’s voluntary diesel initiative, school bus drivers are encouraged to turn off the engine instead of letting it idle while waiting for passengers. This precaution keeps diesel fumes from getting into the buildings through outdoor air intakes, or open doors and windows. Cutting down on school bus idling will reduce the amount of fine particle pollution contained in diesel exhaust, which contributes to respiratory problems.

Another resource for parents and school nurses is sponsored by EPA and ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). It’s called the mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at George Washington University. If you think a child’s illness may come from exposure to an environmental hazard, you or preferably your family physician can contact the center. This toll-free number is 866-622-2431, email and website: This special center focuses on recognizing and properly treating children’s environmental health problems.

As parents prepare children for school, good nutrition is an important part the lesson plan. EPA promotes a diet high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C (meats, dairy products and fruit) –
all elements of good nutrition – as one of the best ways to reduce risks of lead poisoning in younger children.

Not only does good nutrition build strong bones and healthier children, but youngsters with good diets absorb less lead. Hazards from lead-based paint in older homes can also be reduced by limiting fatty foods such as chips and other fried foods, washing your children's hands before eating, after play and at bedtime, and remove the lead dust and dirt by washing your children's toys often.

EPA may not be in the classroom. But America’s environmental protectors play an important role in making education better and safer for our children.