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Air Quality in Long Beach, Chemicals in Beverly Hills are a Concern for Schools

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In probably the most comprehensive study of its kind, a series from USA Today--The Smokestake Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools--pinpoints toxic hotspots near schools in over 34 states. Working with the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, they looked at over 127,000 public, private and parochial schools, ranking them by air quality.

Thirteen thousand schools across California were involved, with 3,266 schools residing in Los Angeles County. The worst school? Stephens Middle School in Long Beach. In fact, Long Beach had six of the top ten schools with the worst air quality, in Los Angeles.

There were also a listing of the schools with the most chemical concerns where the chemicals in the air were at concentrations well above EPA guidelines, and including such things as the carcinogen benzene and naphthalene. Of the 57 schools listed as having chemical concerns, Beverly Hills High School and Cesar Chavez Elementary (Long Beach) were included due to high levels of chloroform. It has been found that people exposed for a long period of time will face a cancer risk of 1 in 100, 000.

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USA Today found that there were failings by the Environmental Protection Agency since a search in their records found only about 3% of the nation's schools were within a mile of a long-term monitor set up to detect hazardous air pollutants. Even fewer--the newspaper identified only 125 of almost 128,000 schools--had monitors within a few blocks. The EPA has already passed it off saying that they provide the grants for each state to monitor air quality. but critics have come back and said that the EPA gives no direction that monitoring needs to be done near schools.

All of this is especially timely given potential midnight rulings by the Bush Administration to alter the Clean Air Act for the allowance of more toxins to be emitted by power plants. It will be interesting to follow the fallout from this study and if there is push back in the many proposed changes to the allowed emissions.

There is a very interactive website, where you can get more information and actually search by school name at the USA Today: http://content.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/smokestack/index\

This post was by Shelley Boyle of The Golden Spiral | Photo by staceyviera via LAist Featured Photos