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environment | health

Federal & State Officials Hear Testimony Regarding Impact of Pollution at Schools

The event featured a panel of federal, state, and local officials and
prominent community activists working to make environmental conditions
at schools safer. Community leaders, and scientists who are experts in
children's health gave testimony to the panel
Los Angeles, CA- Officials from U.S. EPA in Washington DC and San Francisco,
and the new Brown Administration were in historic Los Angeles City Hall last
Tuesday, February 1st listening to testimony from experts and community
members regarding the impact of pollution sources on schools.

The standing room only crowd listened intently as U.S. EPA representatives
took notes on speakers comments made about its newly proposed guidance
document on school siting. The documents which can be reviewed at
 http://www.epa.gov/schools are available for comment until February 18th.

This well attended "listening session" sponsored by environmental health and
environmental justice advocates Robina Suwol of California Safe Schools and
Jane Williams of California Communities Against Toxics is the only scheduled
session in the country.

The session featured a panel of federal, state, and local officials and
prominent community activists working to make environmental conditions
at schools safer. Community leaders, and scientists who are experts in
children's health gave testimony to the panel. Given the current epidemic
of childhood asthma, cancer, neurological disorders and other health effects,
advocates stated that if there is anytime that more protective measures
should be taken, it is now.


California has one of the largest school construction programs in the country,
siting over hundreds of new schools in the past decade. Many more are still to
be built.Communities in Los Angeles have a long history advocating for better
environmental conditions at schools with a number of very high profile school
siting debacles occurring in Los Angeles, notably Belmont High School a decade
ago and, more recently, the Carson-Gore Academy.

"Real life examples of school siting decisions gone wrong, by parents and
students affected by those decisions, is the best elixir to improve decisions
in the future," stated Jane Williams, executive director of California
Communities Against Toxics.

Poor land use decisions by local agencies have schools located next to
junkyards, refineries, shooting ranges, chrome plating facilities, gas
stations with leaking underground storage tanks, oil production facilities,
airports and busy freeways.

"We hope that the testimony given to the U.S. EPA will help strengthen this
proposed school siting document by warning school districts not to locate
schools near potentially dangerous facilities or on toxic sites that have
not been adequately cleaned up," said Robina Suwol of California Safe
Schools.

Efforts by community members and parents trying to protect school children
from pollution at these schools is often frustrating and ineffective due
to ill conceived land use decisions.Having strong, protective federal
guidelines on school siting will avoid these situations in the future
and possibly help local land use agencies engage in more protective
actions.Unfortunately, the current guidelines recommended by U.S. EPA are
voluntary.

The purpose of this four hour "listening session" was to educate federal,
state, and local officials, through case studies and real life examples,
about the importance of strengthening the proposed federal guidance on
school siting.

Given the topic, it may come as no surprise that one of the most compelling
speakers of the day was a ten year old student named Anya who said, "When
kids do something wrong there are consequences. I think grown ups should
have consequences too, when they don't protect kids."

For further information:

Robina Suwol, CA Safe Schools 818-785-5515
Jane Williams, CA Communities Against Toxics 661-510-3412

Copyright 2011
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