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EPA Gives Indoor Air Quality Award to Hamden Schools in Connecticut

Release Date: 01/14/03
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today presented the Hamden Public Schools in Connecticut with a national award for improving indoor air quality.

Hamden Public Schools have fully implemented EPA's national Tools for Schools program, a nationwide initiative to help school officials assess and prevent indoor air quality problems and reduce exposure to asthma-causing substances.

"Hamden is a national leader in our effort to make Connecticut schools, and schools all across the nation, healthy and more conducive for learning," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office."Schools using the 'Tools for Schools' program are seeing tangible reductions in asthma episodes and I urge other schools to follow their examples."

"We're really pleased to give this award to Hamden because they were the first school system in Connecticut to implement Tools for Schools in all their schools," said Kenny Foscue, health educator at the Connecticut Department of Public Health. "Hamden has assisted other school systems, including North Haven and Madison, in launching Tools for Schools in their systems."

"We are honored to receive this prestigious award," said Superintendent of Schools Alida Begina. "I would like to credit my teaching and administrative staff for their efforts in implementing better air quality in our schools."

Hamden's award was presented today by EPA and the Connecticut School Indoor Environment Resource Team at a meeting of the Hamden School Board of Education in Hamden. The Resource team is a consortium of state and federal agencies that helps Connecticut schools implement Tools for Schools.

Hamden began using Tools for Schools after nurses in the district learned about the program and introduced the kit to administrators and other school staff. Using Tools for Schools as a guide, all Hamden school staff participated in training sessions and building walkthroughs.

Since using Tools for Schools, Hamden Public Schools has experienced a noticeable decrease in student absenteeism, decreased student visits to the school nurse for asthma and inhaler usage, and a reduction in incidents of headaches and flu-like health symptoms.

Tools for School is a critical piece of EPA New England's Children's Health Initiative. The campaign strives to create healthier and safer classrooms, homes and a cleaner outdoors. More than 550 schools in New England have joined the "Tools for School" program since the Children's Health Initiative was launched in the fall of 2000. Of these, 180 of the schools are in 36 Connecticut school districts. Connecticut is the national leader in adopting Tools for Schools programs, thanks in large part to the Connecticut Environment Indoor Air Resource Team.

The Indoor Air Resource Team is sponsoring a statewide conference on indoor air quality in schools Sat. April 5 in The Hastings Hotel and Conference Center in Hartford. The conference is open to public and more information is available by calling the Conn. Department of Public Health at 860-509-7742.

Nationally, EPA has issued a call to action against indoor air pollution in schools and the asthma epidemic in children. Recent reports show that more than 50 percent of our nation's schools have poor ventilation and significant sources of pollution in buildings where nearly 55 million students, teachers and school staff spend time. This especially effects children with asthma who are particularly susceptible to indoor pollutants.

The incidence of asthma in young children has risen by 160 percent in the last 15 years. The condition is responsible for 10 million missed school days per year, making it the leading cause of absenteeism due to a chronic illness. Asthma also disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics and children from low-income families.

EPA's Tools for Schools program and the kit which accompanies it shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to improve indoor air problems at little or no cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff. EPA's new action kit includes checklists for all school employees, a flexible step-by-step guide for coordinating the checklists, an Indoor Air Quality Problem Solving Wheel, a fact-sheet on indoor air pollution issues and sample policies and memos.

EPA's goal is to encourage school officials nationwide to take action this school year to protect the health of students and staff and to create more productive learning environments.

"Our children have a right to a healthy learning environment," Varney said. "Indoor air pollutants, such as mold, can trigger asthma attacks. This is a serious concern because about one of every 13 school-age children suffers from asthma and that rate is climbing."