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Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools

Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools

Our job is to protect the American public where they live, work and play – and that certainly includes protecting schoolchildren where they learn.’   Former Administrator Lisa P. Jackson 

Information for Schools

In 2009, as part of a new air toxics monitoring initiative, EPA, state and local air pollution control agencies monitored the outdoor air around schools for pollutants known as toxic air pollutants, or air toxics.  The Clean Air Act includes a list of 187 of these pollutants. Air toxics are of potential concern because exposure to high levels of these pollutants over many decades could result in long-term health effects.

EPA selected schools after evaluating a number of factors including results from an EPA computer modeling analysis, the mix of pollution sources near the schools, results from an analysis conducted for a recent newspaper series on air toxics at schools, and information from state and local air pollution agencies.  

EPA and our partners at state and local air pollution control agencies did the following:

  • collected samples of outdoor air near selected schools over 60 days,
  • analyzed those samples for air toxics of potential concern,
  • reported on levels of air toxics found and their potential for long-term health impacts,
  • evaluated actions that may be needed to reduce levels of pollutants of concern, and
  • took action as needed to ensure that nearby industries were in compliance with clean air regulations.

Part of EPA's mission is to reduce the amount of toxic air pollutants in the air we breathe. For several decades we have issued rules and regulations that have cut emissions of these compounds from automobiles; trucks; buses; and a wide array of industries ranging from large facilities like chemical plants, refineries, paper plants, and factories, to smaller facilities like gasoline stations and dry cleaners.

From 1990 to 2010, emissions of air toxics in the United States declined 55 percent, as a result of federal and state regulations, and local emission reduction programs. However, levels of different air toxics can vary widely from place to place depending upon a number of factors including the amount and types of industry nearby, proximity to heavily traveled or congested roadways, and weather patterns. This study has helped us better understand the air around selected schools throughout the country.

This web site provides information on this initiative, the schools where we monitored, background information on air toxics, and links to other programs EPA has in place to protect communities and school environments. Monitoring results from this initiative and any additional monitoring will be posted on this site.

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