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EPA and State of Vermont Launch Mentor Network to Improve Air Quality in Schools

Release Date: 08/21/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BURLINGTON, VT – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the support of the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), and the American Lung Association of Vermont (ALA-VT), yesterday launched a national Mentor Network to provide a collaborative effort among the nation's public elementary and high schools to foster the implementation of effective indoor air quality (IAQ) programs. While thousands of schools around the nation have used the EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) Program to identify and address ventilation and air pollutant problems, Vermont is the first state to have these schools team up with other schools to share experiences and offer advice on how to emulate their successful programs.

"Our goal is for schools that have implemented successful indoor air quality programs to work side-by-side with other nearby schools to assist them in evaluating, identifying, and addressing indoor air quality problems," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "It's much easier to work with someone who knows the ropes and can show you how to work with the program in order to get the assistance you need to rectify any problems you may encounter."

"We hope that pairing up schools through the Mentor Network will have a ripple effect among our public schools nationwide so our children will spend their days learning in safe, healthy environments."

The Mentor Network was launched at the first one-day training co-sponsored by the EPA, VDH, and ALA-VT. Burlington Mayor Peter A. Clavelle, Paul E. Jarris, M.D, the Commissioner of Health, and Burlington School District Superintendent Lyman Amsden welcomed school personnel from around Vermont. Participants learned how to organize their IAQ teams and how to move forward with implementing a proactive IAQ management program in their school. Building on this knowledge, participants benefited from detailed instruction on how to perform IAQ walkthroughs of their facilities.

Nearly 56 million people throughout the country spend a significant portion of their day inside elementary and secondary schools. According to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, in 1999, 43 percent of America's public schools (almost 34,000 schools) reported at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition, including ventilation, indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustics. Approximately 20 percent of schools reported unsatisfactory indoor air quality. In fact, approximately 25 percent of Vermont schools reported having poor indoor air quality and 32 percent reported inadequate ventilation, according to a 1996 General Accounting Office survey. Schools that do not respond promptly and effectively to IAQ issues may experience an increase in short-term health problems, such as fatigue and nausea, among their student body and staff, as well as serious long-term health problems, like asthma. In recent years, the incidence of childhood asthma has skyrocketed affecting one out of every thirteen school-age children.

EPA introduced the IAQ TfS Program in 1995, as a means to offer resources and guidance to help schools identify, correct, and prevent indoor air quality problems using a practical, cost-effective, step-by-step approach.

The Mentor Network takes the IAQ TfS Program to the next level by providing a collaborative atmosphere for school superintendents, teachers, and maintenance and facility personnel to evaluate their own schools and take corrective action. EPA has honored many of the mentor schools with awards recognizing the quality and success of their programs.

In Vermont, the Health Department offers workshops to help schools improve indoor air quality ENVISION Program by using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's IAQ TfS Program as part of the training. Schools can contact the Department of Health at 1-800-439-8550 to register for workshops or find out more information about state resources.

For more information on the Mentor Network and the IAQ Tools for Schools Program contact Kara Miller, U.S. EPA, (202)-564-9775 or by email at