You may want to read the AASA material http://www.aasa.org/focus/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1951

Powerful Practices Powerful Practices: An Assessment Tool for School Districts Addressing the Needs of Students with Asthma (PDF, October 2005)
This checklist, developed by AASA and its partner school districts, is intended for school administrators to use to help identify areas of asthma management the district is already doing well, as well as areas in which to focus more energy.

School Governance & Leadership Spring 2003 Asthma Wellness: Keeping Children with Asthma in School and Learning (PDF, Spring 2003)
The Spring 2003 issue of School Governance & Leadership covers asthma, indoor air quality, asthma management, policies and procedures in schools, and liability and litigation issues.


The Healthy Schools Heroes Award 2008

Remembering the 1937 Texas School Explosion
For Immediate Release, March 12, 2008
Every year, to mark the anniversary of the March 18, 1937 Texas School Explosion, Healthy Kids salutes Healthy Schools Heroes who demonstrate extraordinary responsibility and inspirational leadership to protect children and teachers from chemical hazards in schools.

The Healthy Schools Hero Award is an annual opportunity to remember the worst school disaster in American history as a case study and cautionary tale. It can inspire us to break the silence about school hazards and to prioritize the values and technical skills we need to live safely with 21st century chemicals and technology. It prompts us to take action to save lives in today's schools where explosives and other hazardous materials in labs, closets and storerooms are routinely ignored.

The Healthy Schools Hero Award 2008 goes to a TEAM of five people who demonstrate how state and federal agencies can take leadership for school safety.

* Matthew Langenfeld, US EPA, Region 8, School Chemical Cleanout Coordinator
* Allyson Kelley, Rocky Mountain College American Indian Affairs, Project Director
* Brian Spangler, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
* Bonnie Rouse , Montana Department of Environmental Quality
* Bruce Hayes, Wyoming Department of Education

They are heroes for their collective sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage that has protected thousands of children from laboratory chemicals and other hazards and unhealthy school conditions." wrote Randy Brown, of the US EPA, Region 8 (8P-TA), Tribal Assistance Program, Denver, CO.

Brown's nomination detailed the extraordinary amounts and types of explosives and other chemical hazards the team cleared out of tribal and rural schools.

Brown also wrote,

I have observed the collective efforts of a collaborative team of professionals dedicated to making tribal and rural schools safer from chemical and explosive hazards for school children, teachers, and administrators throughout Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado.

Together this team has accomplished tasks that would have been impossible for an individual to accomplish. This work has been ongoing for the last few years...

This team has used a very practical process and cost saving measures to reduce risk to chemical exposure. The team has worked tirelessly to improve chemical safety school conditions for children...

Members of the team are working with the US EPA Office of Solid Waste to produce a video of school chemical cleanout activities at Wyoming Indian School in Ethete, Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The video will be used to demonstrate how industry can help and how any activity by school administrators can be helpful to make schools safer for school children.

Voices of History

In 1937, in the small oil-rich town of New London, Texas, a series of decisions to cut costs in the new junior-senior high school's heating system led to a gas leak in the unvented basement that led to an explosion that destroyed the modern, steel-framed school building. At least 319 people died, mostly children.

Surprisingly, no one was held responsible because the Court of Inquiry concluded that "school officials were just average individuals, ignorant or indifferent to the need for precautionary measures, where they cannot, in their lack of knowledge visualize a danger or a hazard." (Court of Inquiry, 1937)

The disaster resulted in a law requiring that a warning odor be added to natural gas, thus saving millions of lives all over the world. Texas created the Texas Engineering Practice Act to set professional standards for public buildings to "safeguard life, health, and property and protect the public welfare."

However, the Court's other important safety recommendations have yet to be implemented in most 21st century schools. The Court recommended that schools need: 1) technically trained administrators for modern school systems, 2) rigid inspections and more widespread public education about avoiding and managing hazards, and 3) a comprehensive, rational safety code.

Today, there is an extensive website of primary source materials and a museum dedicated to remembering the "lost generation," to documenting the story of their beloved community, the explosion and its aftermath, and to preserving its legacy for future generations. London Museum and Tea Room, New London, Texas 75682. (903) 895-4602 or (903) 561-7256

More Resources

"Lessons of the 1937 Texas School Explosion" is a blog dedicated to making March 18 a national day to remember the 1937 Texas School Explosion, to learning its lessons, and to celebrate the "heroes" who take responsibility for school safety today. The blog includes resources, references, and suggested activities and projects for classrooms and community observances to help move "safety" from the margins to the core of school culture and curriculum. Find activities for science, art and vocational education, occupational health and safety, community service, health education and injury prevention, environmental education, civic education, school security, and emergency preparedness, as well as school maintenance and operations.

For more information contact Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed. at healthykids@rcn.com or go to www.healthy-kid.info. Find the article "Strengthening the School's Response to Explosives" in the RESOURCES section.

Countdown to Healthy Schools Day 2008. Find Healthy School Day activities and partners at National Healthy Schools Day

To learn more, click on the names of these inspiring 2008 nominees:

Barbara Lee Foster, Nominated by Erik A Talley, Chair, Division of Chemical Health and Safety, American Chemical Society, New York. Barbara Lee Foster is known for her commitment and pursuit of excellence in safety. Barbara L. Foster is a Certified Chemical Hygiene Officer. At West Virginia University, Morgantown, she is the Department of Chemistry Safety Director and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Safety Program Coordinator.

Dr. Jack Gerlovich, Nominated by Dennis McElroy, PhD, Asst. Professor of Education, Graceland University School of Education. Dr. Jack Gerlovich, Nelle Levvitt Professor of Education, Drake University School of Education, Des Moines, Iowa; Founded JaKel, Inc. in 1986, an Iowa registered corporation specializing in science education safety products and services for elementary, middle, junior high, high school, community college, and teacher preparation colleges.

Dwight Peavey, PhD Nominated by Rick Reibstein of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Technical Assistance and Technology. Dr. Peavey is a Senior Scientist at US EPA Region I. He is the regional expert on toxic chemicals and their environmental fate and adverse effects on the environment and human health. In the last five years, he has brought an "integrated chemical management program" to several Massachusetts schools systems. He has saved them thousands of dollars in hazardous chemical removal, reduced chemical exposure to teachers, staff and students, minimized liability, and created integrated real time "pharmacy-like" chemical management.

Past Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Heroes:

2007 Hero Diane Ethier, Pomfret Center, Connecticut.

2006 Heroes Westborough (MA) School Committee member Bruce Tretter and parent Kathy King.

2005 Heroes Dr. James Kaufman, Laboratory Safety Institute; Christopher Erzinger, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; and Monona Rossol, Arts, Crafts and Theatre Safety.

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Dr. Jack Gerlovich

Healthy Schools Hero Nominee 2008
Dr. Jack Gerlovich
Nominated by Dennis McElroy, PhD, Asst. Professor of Education, Graceland University School of Education

Dr. Jack Gerlovich, Nelle Levvitt Professor of Education, Drake University School of Education, Des Moines, Iowa; Founded JaKel, Inc. in 1986, an Iowa registered corporation specializing in science education safety products and services for elementary, middle, junior high, high school, community college, and teacher preparation colleges.

Dr. Jack Gerlovich's primary area of research interest is in science safety. He has authored 8 books, 30 professional journal articles, and The Total Science Safety System CD-ROM's.
During the past 20 years, he has built custom state CD-ROM and training packages for 20 U.S states, addressing applicable laws, codes, and professional standards unique to each. In addition he has conducted 500 school safety assessments, served as a consultant to government agencies, private business, publishers, and the legal profession. He is past Chair for the Safety Advisory Board for the National Science Teachers Association.

Dr. Gerlovich has served as the State Science Supervisor for the Iowa Department of Education and as an Iowa science teacher. He was also been active in school science and mathematics education and computer networking and has received several grants from the National Science Foundation, State of Iowa, and private foundations.

Dr. McElroy wrote:

Jack is recognized by his peers across the country as our nation's top expert concerning science safety in the learning environment. In 1986 he founded JaKel, Inc. a science safety company that focuses on working with teachers to create the safest possible science learning environment...
Jack is an outstanding individual who has dedicated his life to the cause of science safety. I can think of no other person who is more deserving of this recognition.

I began working with Jack in 1999 and since then we have been contracted by 14 states to create a state specific version of the Total Science Safety System software and to provide training for teachers in those states.

JaKel works through the department of education in each state and collaborates with OSHA, the fire marshal and other safety personnel to personalize the software to the specific state. In two states, Tennessee and South Carolina, the software has been made an official state document. Of particular importance, there have been no serious science safety related accidents in any of the 14 states that are using the Total Science Safety System. Drake University has recognized Jack's contributions and uses him as an example of why students should come to Drake.

Champion of Safety (Excerpt from the article "Get Your Hands on This: School of Education professor's active approach creates a lasting impression.")

While education majors and elementary students are inspired by Gerlovich's inquiry-based activities, educators throughout the world know him as the expert to call when it comes to maintaining science safety in the classroom. "I'd start a Jack fan club if I could," says Clara Stallings, middle school science consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. "He has single-handedly though he'd never say that transformed science safety in elementary and secondary classrooms."

As a father, Gerlovich worried about the safety of his two daughters in science classrooms cluttered with unmarked chemicals, outdated equipment and unclear or nonexistent procedures for safety and accident prevention. Many schools around the nation were simply not equipped to collect and standardize safety information according to state and industry specifications.

As a science educator, he decided to take action. Through his teachings at Drake and his company JaKel, Inc., Gerlovich researches and compiles requirements, guidelines and operating procedures, state by state.

Barbara Lee Foster

Healthy Schools Hero Nominee 2008
Barbara Lee Foster
Nominated by Erik A Talley, Chair, Division of Chemical Health and Safety, American Chemical Society, New York.

Barbara Lee Foster is known for her commitment and pursuit of excellence in safety. Barbara L. Foster is a Certified Chemical Hygiene Officer. At West Virginia University, Morgantown, she is the Department of Chemistry Safety Director and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Safety Program Coordinator.

Erik Talley wrote, In addition to her duties within the University, she actively supports K-12 science programs with materials and is a safety resource to teachers...Barbara is an inspirational leader and presents an exemplary role model for presenting science in a safe, enjoyable and educational manner. She frequently presents safety workshops for teachers and encourages her colleagues to work in their communities to enhance safety in science classrooms.

Foster has published many papers, created a variety of resources for science teachers including manuals such as Laboratory Safety and Management, A Handbook for Teaching Assistants, (2007).


From the WVU Chemistry Department webpage, Message from the Safety Director:
It is with a keen sense of responsibility that we prepare our students for their careers in laboratory settings in academia, industry, government, law enforcement, and the health sciences. We realize that what our students learn about safety in our laboratories will have a significant impact on all of the people who will share their work environments in the future. Work Safely and Teach Safety!

From "In pursuit of excellence in safety," Journal of Chemical Health & Safety, May/June 2007.
How do we ascertain the efficacy of a laboratory safety program? If we set a goal to achieve excellence in all aspects of our safety program, where do we set the bar? To achieve a measure of excellence, several key elements must be present and function at the highest possible level within a laboratory safety program. These essential elements include: Administrative Responsibilities, Safety Documents, Chemical Management Program, Laboratory Inspection Program, and Emergency Preparedness...

I encourage you to instill a philosophy of safety in your laboratory and workplace. Set a good example every day by following the safety rules, enforcing the safety rules, and providing a safe and healthy learning environment for your students and employees.

Foster is also active professionally as a Member of the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Chemical Safety and Secretary (2004-2006) of the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety. Barbara serves on the Board of Editors for the journal Chemical Health & Safety. She is the recipient of 2006 Tillmanns-Skolnick Award for outstanding service to the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety and 2007 Chair, American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Health and Safety.

Dwight Peavey, PhD

Healthy Schools Hero Nominee 2008
Dwight Peavey, PhD, Senior Scientist at US EPA Region I,
Nominated by Rick Reibstein of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Technical Assistance and Technology

Dr. Peavey is the regional expert on toxic chemicals and their environmental fate and adverse effects on the environment and human health. In the last five years, he has brought an "integrated chemical management program" to several Massachusetts schools systems.

He has saved these schools thousands of dollars in hazardous chemical removal, reduced chemical exposure to teachers, staff and students, minimized liability, and created integrated real time "pharmacy-like" chemical management. In addition to providing better chemical security, integrated chemical management programs lead to additional cost savings as schools avoid unnecessary re-ordering and expensive specialized storage.

Massachusetts is one of six states where schools are not required to have a chemical hygiene program. Nor is it an OSHA state. So Dr. Peavey's success in risk reduction in schools is attributable to his initiative and unique dedication, as well as his expertise and interpersonal skills.

"During my watch, no harm should come to a child." says Dr. Peavey. "When a child or a teacher goes to school, he should come home in the same condition he went there."

Dr. Peavey is EPA's New England Small Business Ombudsman, Chemical Right-To-Know liaison, Brominated Flame Retardant expert and the Senior Assistance Coordinator. He is the regional coordinator for the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Dwight serves as the regional Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxics (PBTs) and High Production Volume Chemical Challenge Program liaison.

In his various positions, Dr. Peavey has made presentations at state, regional, national and international seminars, workshops and conferences on all aspects of small business assistance, EPCRA, Toxics Release Inventory, Pollution Prevention, PBTs, Chemical Right-To-Know, and EPA's Small Business Policy. As the regional Small Business Ombudsman, Dr. Peavey has partnered with SBTAPs, the Small Business Development Centers, colleges/universities and various small business trade associations throughout New England.

Prior to EPA, Dr. Peavey was the executive director for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, consultant to the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture, and assistant professor at the SUNY Geneseo.



The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires schools to certify that they comply with the requirement to allow students attending a violent or "Persistently Dangerous School" to transfer to a safe school. (See the reference to federal guidance below.)

Proposed expanded definition:

"is a school that poses a threat to a child's
health and safety when anyone creates or
ignores biological, chemical, physical or
structural conditions and/or activities that
cause or have the potential to cause illness
or injury to any child or other school


"Students and school staff have the right to a
clean, well-ventilated and well-maintained school
environment, free of biological, chemical, physical
or structural conditions or activities that harm them
or have the potential to cause illness or injury.

Furthermore, no school official should force or
coerce a child's or employee's attendance or
occupancy where 1) there are risks to health and
safety (as perceived by the student, employee or
parent) such as inadequate ventilation, poor
sanitation, poor hygiene, air contaminants, leaks,
dampness, or moisture intrusion, or unsafe
equipment or supplies; or 2) the child, employee or
other occupant believes his or her symptoms are
related to a location or activity.

Furthermore, all employees of state and local
education agencies share the duty to safeguard all
students and employees from health-related
hazards and disruption to their education or


Just as violence or fear of violence interferes with a
child's safety, sense of security at school and
learning, school health hazards are barriers to
learning and attendance. These barriers to health
and security make the school inaccessible and
unusable and therefore, while endangering all
students, discriminate against health-impaired
students and employees.


All states should include, in the definition of
"persistently dangerous schools," the following
precautions, standards, school official
responsibilities, and parent and employee rights as
defined herein.

School officials fulfill their duty to protect students
and employees from illness, injury and all health-
related barriers to their education or employment,

1) Precautionary Action: designing and maintaining
a standard for all facility conditions and operations
and in all educational locations and activities that
protect all occupants, but especially health-
impaired and other vulnerable students, from
illness, injury or death

2) Secondary Action: responding immediately to
any report, verbal or written, of conditions or
activities that have the potential to cause or
exacerbate any child's or adult's illness, injury, or

2a) Simultaneously: by immediately taking children
and adults out of harm's way to a safe location,

2b) Immediately stopping and correcting the
conditions or activities, before the area is re-

2c) Notification: As the school nurse or principal
does for incidents of head lice or scabies,
chickenpox, strep throat, head injury, etc., the
school nurse or school principal will notify all
parents in writing of an exposure incident, unsafe
condition or activity, or hazard, the observed or
potential symptoms of the exposure, any signs or
symptoms to watch for, the actions taken by
specified school personnel, and recommendations
for follow up.

2d) Respecting the standard of the "prudent
parent," by providing, on request, alternative
instruction and/or placement in an equal (and
medically appropriate, per parent/child's physician)
educational program, at the expense of the local
school agency (LEA), when a parent or a child's
physician judges that a condition or activity in the
school has the potential to cause or has caused
illness, injury or disruption of learning.

2e) Reimbursing a parent or group of parents for
any out-of-pocket expenses they incur for medical
or educational expenses, due to a school official's
resistance or failure to implement the precautions
necessary to protect and safeguard a child's health
and education.

3) The school must keep logs of health complaints
and records of all health, safety and structural
inspections, facility evaluations and air testing
results, maintenance activities and purchasing
records, occupancy restrictions, and make them
available to parents, employees, and the public, at
all times at no charge (i.e. on the school or district


Contact me for links or
copies, healthykids@rcn.com

A Case Study of Environmental, Health & Safety
Issues Involving The Burlington (Ma) Public School
System. "Tips, suggestions, and resources for
investigating and resolving EHS issues in Schools"
prepared by Todd H. Dresser, Environmental
Engineer, formerly of) Burlington Board of Health,
Burlington, Massachusetts 01803

Environmental Health and Safety Problems
Reported in Massachusetts' Public Schools by
Massachusetts Agencies, February 2006

Prioritization of 31 Criteria For School Building
Adequacy. Glen I. Earthman, Professor Emeritus,
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0302
Title 9, Part E, SEC. 9532. UNSAFE SCHOOL

Each State receiving funds under this Act
shall establish and implement a statewide
policy requiring that a student attending a
persistently dangerous public elementary
school or secondary school, as determined
by the State in consultation with a
representative sample of local educational
agencies, or who becomes a victim of a
violent criminal offense, as determined by
State law, while in or on the grounds of a
public elementary school or secondary
school that the student attends, be allowed
to attend a safe public elementary school or
secondary school within the local
educational agency, including a public
charter school.

(b) CERTIFICATION- As a condition of
receiving funds under this Act, a State shall
certify in writing to the Secretary that the
State is in compliance with this section.

Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed. 617 965-9637
Please send comments, questions and/or an endorsement to
Ellie Goldberg ellie.goldberg@healthy-kids.info

Sick School Victims Compensation Program

Please note: This is a not a real program. I wrote it because I imagined what a "victim compensation" program would be like if it were designed to assist students and teachers who fall victim to hazards in persistently dangerous schools and whose cries for help are repeatedly dismissed and ignored by school and health officials. This idea is based on the Massachusetts Attorney General's Victims Compensation program brochure. I apologize to the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Victim’s Assistance Office.

Sick School Victims Compensation Program v. April 3, 2006

The illnesses, injures and disabilities acquired by students and teachers in poorly managed school facilities and school renovation projects have a devastating impact on the victims and their families.

All too often, new or exacerbated medical illness and psychological stress and trauma are accompanied by mounting medical bills, lost school days, extensive educational deficits from lack of instruction, lost wages and lost jobs, and other escalating losses and expenses. No one should suffer a severe financial setback because of their own or their child’s acquired or exacerbated illness acquired at school.

As Attorney General, I am deeply committed to expanding services to students and teachers who are victims of unhealthy conditions and hazards such as mold, pesticides, asbestos, toxic school supplies in science, art or technical-vocational education courses, or toxic materials used for cleaning and during renovation projects in poorly managed school facilities and programs.

The Victim Compensation Program uses funds obtained from criminal offenders* to provide financial assistance, up to $25,000 per victim, to help victims pay for uninsured medical, dental, and counseling expenses, funeral and burial costs, and lost income, and to provide compensatory education, special education services and personalized student educational progress and safety plans, and other educational, medical and employment services to affected persons and their families.

The criminal offender’s contribution to each victim’s personal compensation entitlement is increased to $10,000 for every day that each local or state health officer or school official was aware of a hazard or unhealthy condition or activity and did not act immediately to get the student or teacher out of harm’s way,  and take action to stop, correct or mitigate the hazardous condition or activity. (Possible basis for civil or criminal action: Deliberate indifference to the safety of a child, breach of duty to care, breach of duty to warn, negligence, retaliation, harassment, violation of mandated reporter requirement when school official is aware of hazards putting student at risk of harm, violation of school nurse license, etc.)

Each criminal offender’s contribution to each victim’s personal compensation entitlement is increased to $15,000 if the student or teacher had a documented chronic health condition and school officials did not implement necessary precautions and protective actions, and/or the school had no system or procedure, as required by law, to identify vulnerable health-impaired students for whom the school administrators are required to provide a safe and usable environment, and/or who had no "complaint system" as required by law, and/or if the school official created or ignored the hazard and unhealthy conditions or activities, and therefore violated the victim’s right to access safe and usable educational facilities. (Discrimination under Section 504/ADA)

My dedicated staff can also assist you in understanding your rights as a crime victim and in ensuring that you get all the services and assistance you need.

Who is eligible for compensation?

  • Victims who are/have been occupants of any Massachusetts school facility where there are health hazards and safety violations.
  • Dependents and family members of victims.
  • Any person responsible for the care and support of a victim.
What are the requirements?

The hazard, health threat and/or health condition must have been reported to the school principal, school nurse, or town health officer.

There was no official response and/or the official response was ineffective in stopping or correcting the harmful condition or activity and did not protec the victim from harm.

The victim and/or his/her family must cooperate with law enforcement officials in the investigation.

Your out-of-pocket expenses must exceed $100 unless you are under age 16 or over age 60.

What expenses are covered? You may be reimbursed for:

  • Medical diagnosis, treatment, equipment, supplies and medication.
  • Counseling expenses.
  • Burial costs.
  • Lost wages.
  • Loss of financial support for dependents.
  • Homemaker expenses.
  • Educational services based on individually-determined need.
Expenses not covered. Compensation for pain and suffering.

Fund Pool
S. 504/ADA Any individual who is in a position of authority in a school district, in a state or local education department, or state or local health department, and in a municipality, who create or ignore hazards or unhealthy conditions violates the civil rights of victim(s) and are therefore subject to the personal penalties in the law.

*Criminal Offenders

  • School Committee Members
  • Town Boards or Councils
  • MA Department of Education
  • Department of Public Health
  • Local Health Department
  • Insurance Companies Pool, Risk Managers Pool
  • Law Firms
  • Building Contractors
  • Pest Control Companies

Your Environmental Defense Plan

Memo to School Administrators:
Think of an IAQ Team as your best Environmental Defense Plan

Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., www.healthy-kid.info
c. 1999, v. 2007

I am an advocate for the growing population of students with asthma and I know that a school that is safe for children with asthma is a safer, more productive, healthier place for everyone.

I urge anyone involved in the design, building, renovation, maintenance, management or inspection of schools to remember that schools are special because they house children. And today, anywhere from 4 to 20% or more of the students in a given school have asthma.

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program‘s (NAEPP) questionnaire: How Asthma Friendly Is Your School? asks:
- Does the school maintain good indoor air quality?
- Does it reduce or eliminate allergens and irritants that can make asthma worse?

If the answer to any of its questions is no, NAEPP warns that students are facing obstacles to asthma control and their attendance and progress in school will suffer.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury. Having asthma is like having a sunburn in your airways. Preventing and managing asthma requires protecting the airways from the allergens and irritants that cause and aggravate the inflammation.

A sixth grader explains how a school with moldy carpets made him sick in an award winning school essay and exhibit titled, “The Effect of Carpet on Students.”

"Allergies make you feel horrible. Sinus and lung congestion, headaches, runny nose, breathing problems, sore throat, coughing and fatigue make it difficult for you to concentrate. You are not happy when you have allergies and are congested. Being sick affects your behavior…Some medicines you take make you sleepy, dopey, irritable, disoriented, or hyper which affects your concentration. If your are absent from school, you get behind in your work and miss the teacher’s instruction."

While there are no statistics on children’s school-related asthma, one government occupational health survey (1) listed elementary and secondary schools as "industries with a high prevalence of asthma" (12.0%), even higher than automotive repair shops (9.2%).

The MA Department of Public Health's newsletter, Lung Disease Bulletin (2) (December, 1996) highlights teachers who developed asthma as a result of school conditions that included inadequate ventilation, water-damaged moldy carpets, decaying organic debris in the ventilation system, and inappropriate application of pesticides to carpets. The toll from mismanaged renovations in occupied buildings is even higher.

As students and staff at the Pollard School in Needham (MA) learned first hand, going to school amid demolition, construction and renovation presents a variety of serious threats to health and safety and can leave a legacy of disruption, illness and disability that continues for years.

It is obvious that bad air at school sabotages a child’s education, making it harder to learn and making it impossible to live well. Students (and teachers) who use bronchodilators to keep their airways open in  unhealthy environments are setting themselves up for more serious long term lung damage.

I urge school officials who ignore or minimize complaints of health problems to remember the 1937 Texas School Disaster where students and teachers endured headaches, red teary eyes, nausea, and breathing difficulties for weeks as gas fumes filled the school. On March 18, 1937, a gas explosion killed 319 students, teachers and visitors. (Victims identified as of 2007)

Those lives were a terrible price to pay for the false economies that led to short cuts in design and inadequate ventilation at the expense of health and safety.

It is not hard to see how ignoring air quality concerns at school creates an acute threat and a cumulative disadvantage for students and wastes millions of education and health care dollars. We may never know how many points children lose taking MCAS or SAT tests in rooms with high levels of CO2 (carbon dioxide) or moldy carpets but we know that that these schools are not safe environments for teaching and learning.

The logic is simple. Children are required by law to go to school. Therefore parents assume that schools will be safe for their children. They rely on school officials to anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers and take steps to prevent harm, for example, from asbestos, solvents or pesticides. Building "experts" that find levels of contaminants below OSHA standards and therefore consider them acceptable for schools ignore the special vulnerabilities of children.

They also ignore the fact that schools have additional responsibilities to children under laws defining special education and disability rights. Schools cannot simply reject or ignore children because they have asthma. Schools must be accessible to all children, including those more vulnerable than typical children to injury or illness because they have health conditions such as asthma, allergies or learning disabilities.

To protect the right of all children to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, schools must reduce barriers to attendance including conditions that cause preventable illness. They must work to prevent or change conditions which create a disadvantage or disparate impact on any child or group of children.

Also consider employees with asthma. In 1996, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination awarded $200,000 to a school nurse in Burlington, MA because poor ventilation and contaminants in the school exacerbated her asthma and a school official had repeatedly disregarded her physician's advice to install a window in her office. The judgment concluded that “a reasonable person would have found such conditions intolerable” and that “a reasonable person would not have remained at a job which endangered her health with no hope of improvement.” Her case was strong because she had detailed notes of her symptoms, her physician’s recommendations, and the school’s ventilation and contamination problems. Most significant, she had a copy of every notice she had given to school officials giving them an opportunity to address her concerns.

I guarantee you, if you look at your school through the viewpoint of students and teachers with asthma, you will never set your standards for health and safety to high. You will never betray the trust placed in you by your colleagues and your community and you will save money at the same time.


1. Be an IAQ team player. Think wholistically. Recognize that the whole school is an integrated interdependent living system. Even installing a copy machine without planning to exhaust contaminants exposes people to ozone and other irritating and toxic emissions.

2. Keep good records. Encourage health monitoring and hazards reporting by staff, students and parents. They are the most cost-effective sources of information about a school. Encourage staff and students to make regular reports about comfort, symptoms and hazards and poor conditions. This information can help you map symptom, time, and location patterns that are more helpful than air quality tests in pin-pointing poor conditions that cause health problems.

3. Old inspection reports are a gold mine of information. Study them. Every school system has accumulated a vareity of useful documents such as school maintenance records and service contracts, fire and safety inspections, pest control service records and reports from such organizations such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation committee. They could save every school money wasted on useless tests and inspections, hasty repairs, and poorly managed renovations not to mention the expense of litigation and liability after a crisis.

Peabody (MA) High school teachers and students suffered serious disabling illnesses and the district paid tens of thousands of dollars for inspections when old inspection reports in the files had identified the same serious building problems and hazards years earlier.

4. Put a high priority on regular facility audits designed to save money by preventing deterioration and waste. Adopting a school-wide Integrated Pest Management program, for example, not only makes everyone in a school aware and responsible for keeping the school clean, dry and in good repair, It puts a priority on promptly correcting poor conditions and poor sanitation to prevent rodent and insect problems. It prevents damage and deterioration and avoids the risks of using pesticides.

A pest control expert in one Newton school pointed out how the district could have saved thousands of dollars if someone had simply re-attached a down spout that was laying on the ground. Conducting an inspection during a rain storm he noted a waterfall over a courtyard door that was fragmented and green with mold. The eave over the door was bent and the water was funneling down, splashing on the step at the bottom of the door. The frame gaped. The wall and the base of the door was rotted. Inside, behind a heating panel, there were dead mice on glue boards. Dead blow flies were in the rotting carcasses. Obviously the downspout and the rot had been ignored for years.

5. Use chemical inventories and hazard audits to reduce risks, avoid poor air quality, avoid waste by coordinating purchasing, and avoid thousands in hazardous waste disposal costs. The MA Department of Public Health inspector found conditions at Newton North High School that had been identified many times over in a collection of school inspection reports compiled over twenty years.

His letter noted that “incompatible storage of chemicals, and storage of chemicals in leaking or damaged containers may lead to unexpected fires, explosions or release of toxic fumes and gases into the occupied spaces of the school. Chemicals are stored alphabetically instead of according to chemical class or hazard, i.e., flammables, corrosives and explosives sitting next to each other. Old and deteriorating containers being attacked by acid and vapors as a result of improper storage of acids and organics. There is no labeling or identification. There are chemicals of questionable use in a high school chemistry lab. Chemicals are deteriorating to the point that the secondary containers holding them have started to corrode, i.e. bromine containers in an old inoperable refrigerator also stored xylene and trichloroacetic acid (located within five feet of a major school corridor.)

You may not understand the chemistry but no one should have trouble understanding the terms “toxic fumes,” “flammables,” and “explosives.” The problem could have cost many people their lives. Newton families are lucky that all it cost the school was $60,000 for an unplanned hazardous materials emergency removal.

6. Schools cannot go wrong keeping in mind their mission, “education.”
Educate everyone to exercise their special rights as parents, employees, students and citizens so they can advocate together for protective air quality standards on building committees, school health advisory councils and environmental quality teams. An environmental defense plan that consistently puts children’s health and safety first and uses asthma-safe standards for school design, renovation, operation and maintenance, will be a win-win success story for us all.

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1. Prevalence of Asthma in the US Population, 1988-1994. KM Bang and JH Him, Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, Morgantown, WV 26505.

2. Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR).

3. Building Minds, Minding Buildings—Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning http://www.aft.org/topics/building-conditions/index.htm


The case against BPA

Massachusetts State PTA, P.O. Box 421, Rehoboth, MA 02769 508.347.7055 www.masspta.org

Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., VP Legislation, MassPTA, May 29, 2008
for the
Boston City Council Committee on Environment and Health

My name is Ellie Goldberg. I am an advocate for healthy children, healthy schools and environmental health and safety. I am also a board member and Vice-president of Legislation for the Massachusetts PTA. I thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

Massachusetts PTA is part of the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States. It is a not-for-profit organization of parents, educators, students, and other citizens active in their schools and communities. First organized in 1910, MassPTA now has approximately 19,000 members in 119 local units carrying on almost one hundred years of advocacy for children, families and schools.

PTA is a leader in reminding our nation of its obligations to children. The MassPTA position statement on Safe and Nurturing Environments dedicates us to support, expand, and improve efforts to protect children from toxic exposures that cause preventable illnesses and disabilities.

Just as MassPTA urges the passage of An Act to Promote Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals as the safe choice and the smart choice for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we urge the City of Boston to set a high standard for children's health and safety, public health and corporate accountability.

We know BPA is toxic and that it can sabotage children's healthy development. Indeed, our children are the hit and run victims of the thousands of health damaging and life altering "stealth" substances that are ubiquitous in our water, air and food and in the consumer products we use in our daily lives.

We see the evidence of harm with our own eyes… in our families, in our schools, in our communities, and in the daily newspapers. We need to stop the crisis of chronic disease and disability that leads to the rising health care and health insurance costs that are the budget busters of every family, school, business and municipality in the state. We cannot afford to wait for the federal system or for the marketplace to address the gaps in protection from toxic chemicals.

In the 1962 book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (whose 101st birthday was this week) described the link between the contamination of the environment and our health. In Chapter 14: One in Four, Carson pointed out that the most dangerous type of exposure was the "minute exposures, repeated over and over throughout the years." Carson explained that unlike diseases and injuries caused by germs, we have put the vast majority of chemicals into the environment and, if we wish, we can eliminate many of them to lessen or mitigate their horrible impact. Her most basic legacy is the message that "prevention is the imperative."

We need to always remember that the wealth of our communities is the health of our children. The public has the right to expect that our elected and appointed government officials at every level will act to safeguard the long term economic and health security of our families.

We cannot undo the contamination and continuous malignant exposures from BPA and other toxic chemicals already in our environment and in our bodies. But we can stop it from getting worse.

  • We can adopt standards that stop the manufacture, distribution and sale of children’s products and all food and beverage containers that contain BPA and other known hormone disrupters, carcinogens, and neurotoxins.

  • We can align the use of public funds by our agencies, schools, grantees and contractors with standards and regulations that protect and safeguard children and public health by establishing "purchasing preferences" to allow only the purchase and use of products made without hormone disrupters, carcinogens, and neurotoxins.

  • We can eliminate unnecessary hazardous products from our homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces.

PTA membership is open to anyone who is concerned with the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. We urge all health and education professionals, organizations, parent groups, citizens and City of Boston leaders and policy makers to be our partners in prevention. Together we can make wise policies and make sustainability, public health and good government a priority.

I encourage you to join PTA in working for the education, health and safety of your children and mine.



AAIDD launched an environmental health initiative designed to promote good health and reduce disability by forging ground breaking partnerships among the developmental disabilities networks and the environmental health communities. The goals of this unique collaboration are to:
  • Raise awareness about the complex links between exposure to neurotoxic chemicals and developmental disabilities, and
  • Raise awareness that those living with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities may be at greater risk of secondary health effects from toxic exposures than individuals without disabilities.

The initiative began in July 2003 when AAIDD convened a Summit where leaders from academia, environmental health disciplines, disability services, special education, public policy and the self-advocacy network framed a national action blueprint. This framework is designed to achieve effective collaboration among network partners and has extensive recommendations for action pertaining to education, outreach, training, legislation, policy, and research.

AAIDD has established an expert Advisory Board and three workgroups to put these policy, research, and educational recommendations into action. The working groups are comprised of AAIDD members, developmental and learning disabilities professionals, environmental health experts, individuals with disabilities and state and local government association members. This includes scientists, researchers, toxicologists, nurses, self-advocates and many others to collaborate their expertise and passion to move this environmental health promotion and disability agenda forward!

AAIDD now has a position statement that outlines our Environmental Health Initiative, and we encourage organizations, professionals, community members, legislators, and any interested parties in signing-on. To read about the position statement, click here. Contact Laura Abulafia at Laura@aaidd.org if you wish to sign-on.

Causes Unknown

Although there is little doubt that many aspects of learning and development are genetically influenced, for the vast majority of these disorders there is no evidence that genetic factors are the predominant cause. In fact, the few syndromes that appear to be exclusively genetic are rare.

Developmental disability can be the result of any one of many factors, or a combination of multiple factors. In fact, as much as 50 percent of all cases of mental retardation have more than one underlying cause. Furthermore, for a third of all the cases of mental retardation, the cause is still unknown.

We believe that we can no longer ignore the mounting evidence that chemical exposures are contributing substantially to the epidemic of developmental disabilities.

Developmental Disabilities

Neurodevelopmental disabilities are widespread, and chemical exposures are important and preventable contributors to these conditions.

The term "Developmental Disabilities" can be used to describe any number of disabilities that interrupt natural brain development, begin in childhood, and are life-long. Disabilities may affect a person's ability to speak, learn, make decisions, understand language, or take care of oneself.

Economic Costs

The consequences of developmental disabilities can be tragic and expensive. The familial, societal and economic costs are immense, and the disabilities are usually life-long. For instance, special education services to all students with disabilities costs $77.3 billion per year.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that 25 percent of developmental and neurological deficits in children are due to the interplay between chemicals and genetic factors and that 3% are caused by exposure to chemicals alone. The NAS estimates that costs due to environmental factors could be anywhere from $4.6¨C$18.4 billion per year.

Chemical Exposures

Toxins in the environment are an important concern for persons with developmental disabilities. Sometimes developmental disabilities are specifically caused by exposure to toxins prior to birth or during childhood. Others born with disabilities may suffer additional secondary health effects that further impact optimal functioning.

Vast quantities of neurotoxic chemicals are released into the environment each year. Of the top 20 chemicals reported by the Toxics Release Inventory in 1997, nearly three-quarters are known or suspected neurotoxicants. They include methanol, ammonia, manganese, toluene, phosphoric acid, xylene, n-hexane, chlorine, methyl ethyl ketone, carbon disulfide lead and glycol ethers.

The current, limited understanding of chemical neurotoxicity potential has one particularly unsettling implication: What we already know about neurodevelopmental toxic threats to the fetus, child and those living with disabilities is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg.

Linking Toxic Exposures with Developmental Disabilities

The connection between toxic environmental exposures and neurodevelopment is an emerging area of concern. An estimated 12 million children (17 percent) have one or more learning, developmental, or behavioral disability and these numbers appear to be increasing. Mental retardation alone affects 1.4 million children. Exposures to environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, PCBs, alcohol, toluene and tobacco have all been proven to cause permanent developmental disabilities.

Other toxic exposures such as pesticides, solvents, flame retardants, plastics, and heavy metals such as cadmium and excessive manganese, similarly disrupt brain development. The cause of the increase in developmental disabilities is unknown, yet the latest science and research efforts are beginning to implicate the more than 80,000 chemicals that have been introduced into the environment over the past 40 years. This initiative is raising awareness of the links between disabilities and toxic exposures, calling for needed research to clarify these associations, and progressive policies to address the issue.

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units – a Resource for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Community
Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP
Tuesday, December 9 2008 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Environmental Impacts on Neurodevelopment, A Case Study from Ecuador
Alexis Jeannine Handal, PhD MPH
Department of Family and Community Medicine University of New Mexico
Tuesday, February 10 2009 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Indoor Air Quality and Health, Part II
Howard Brightman, ScD, PE, CIH
In place of Jack Spengler, Ph.D., Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation in the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health

Tuesday, March 9 2009 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Past Teleconferences

Environmental Contaminants and ADHD
Daniel A. Axelrad
Tuesday, October 7 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Children's Health and Environmental Pesticide Exposures
Elizabeth A. Guillette
Research Scientist in Anthropology at the University of Florida
Tuesday, September 9 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Tracey Woodruff
Scientist and Policy Analyst, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Tuesday August 5 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

LDDI Scientific Consensus Statement
Steven Gilbert, PhD, DABT
Tuesday, July 8 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Asthma in School Environments for Students and Staff
Tolle Graham, Healthy Schools Coordinator
Elise Pechter, MPH, CIH, Industrial Hygienist Occupational Health Surveillance Program
Tuesday, June 17 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Lead Exposure and Developmental Disabilities
Jay S. Schneider, Ph.D.
Professor, Dept. of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology
Director: Parkinson's Disease Research Unit Thomas Jefferson University
Tuesday, April 8, 2008 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Environmental Injustice: Focus on Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Lawrence D. Rosen, MD
Chair, Integrative Pediatrics Council

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Indoor Air Quality and Health, Part I
Jack Spengler, Ph.D.
Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation in the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Cleaning for Health in New England Schools
Carol Westinghouse, specialist in Cleaning for Health programs and in the environmentally preferable purchasing of institutional cleaning products
Tuesday, January 8, 2008 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Environmental Health in School Settings
Stacey Gonzalez, Campaign Coordinator at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ)
Tuesday, November 6, 2007 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Protecting Children's Health at School
Claire Barnett, MBA, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network
Kim Voss, Parent
Tuesday, October 9, 2007 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST

National Birth Defect Registry: Collecting Data That Potentially Links Environmental Exposures to Clusters of Birth Defects
Betty Mekdeci, Founder of Birth Defects Research for Children
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Detecting the Impact of Ethanol on the Fetus and Understanding its Underlying Mechanism
Cynthia F. Bearer, MD, PhD
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST

SAFER: State Alliance for Federal Reform of Chemicals Policy
Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
Sarah Doll, SAFER national coordinator
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Environmental Health Risks in Community Based Residential Settings
Allison Del Bene Davis, PhD, RN
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Developing Fetus: Links to Developmental Disabilities
Ann Streissguth, PhD
Tuesday, March 13, 2007 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Lessons about Toxic Chemical Exposures from Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Carolyn Graff, PhD, RN
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Reducing Neurotoxicity Exposure: The Dioxin Story
Robert Lawrence, MD
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Lead Exposure and Schizophrenia: Possible Connections?
Mark Opler, PhD, MPH
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Environmental Health for Nurses
Barbara Sattler RN, DrPH, FAAN
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Nicotine, Tobacco and Brain Damage, From the Fetus to the Adolescent:
Finding the Smoking Gun

Theodore A. Slotkin, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Mercury Exposure and Mental Retardation
Dr. Leo Trasande, MD, MPP
Tuesday, September 12, 2006 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"Self-Advocates Take Action on Environmental Health"
Bill DuSold, Chester Finn, and Joe Meadours
Friday, June 9, 2006 @ 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST

"Low-Level Lead Toxicity: The Ongoing Search for a Threshold"
Dr. Bruce Lanphear
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"Interpreting Trace Element Analyses: Clinical Investigations of Neurotoxicity"
Tee L. Guidotti, MD, MPH
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"How Exposure to Common Pesticides Can Damage the Developing Brain: Lessons Learned from Chlorpyrifos and the Organophosphates"
Theodore A. Slotkin, Ph.D.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"Similarities and Differences between Thimerosal Mercury and Methylmercury"
Thomas Burbacher, Ph.D.
Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST
Materials coming December 5, 2005.

"Prenatal and Postnatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: What Do We Know About the Effects of this Common Exposure for Children?"
Kimberly Yolton, Ph.D.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"Environmental contaminants and IQ: What is Dangerous to the Developing and Mature Brain, and How Do They Act?"
David O. Carpenter, MD
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST

"A Vulnerable Population: Toxic Exposures and the DD Community"
Allison Del Bene Davis, MS, RN, The Arc of Anne Arundel County
July 13, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT

"Preventing Harm at School"
Claire Barnett, MBA, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network
June 15, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT

"What's the Connection? Chemical Exposures and Developmental Disabilities"
David Wallinga, MD
Wednesday, May 25, 2005 @ 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT