EPA Region 4 Sampling Air at Southeastern Schools
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 (Atlanta headquarters) is sampling the air outside 12 schools in the Southeast that were selected as part of the agency's Schools Air Toxics Monitoring Initiative.
The initiative, which is monitoring the air outside 63 schools in 22 states, is designed to help EPA and the state and local air pollution programs evaluate whether long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air might pose health concerns for children and staff at the schools. Outdoor air at each of the schools is being monitored for at least 60 days, and air quality monitors will take a minimum of 10 samples during these sampling periods. EPA will use the information gathered in the initiative to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring or enforcement action where appropriate. Monitoring concluded in June at two schools in Tennessee and those reports have been posted.
Preliminary data from four additional schools also were posted. The schools are Lewis Elementary, North Birmingham Elementary, Tarrant Elementary, and the Riggins School, all in Jefferson County, Alabama.
The key pollutants of concern at these schools are:
- arsenic, emitted from some industrial processes,
- benzene, emitted from burning coal and oil, motor vehicle exhaust, and evaporation from gasoline service stations, and found in industrial solvents,
- benzo(a)pyrene, formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat, and
- lead, which comes from human activities including burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing.
The preliminary results show that levels of the key air toxics at these four schools are below levels of short-term concern. Some information also includes preliminary data on acrolein, a widespread pollutant that may irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. EPA anticipates that long-term levels of acrolein are likely to be elevated at most schools. Elevated acrolein is not limited to schools: preliminary results from the 40 schools that are monitoring for acrolein are similar to levels from air toxics monitors in other areas of the country.
EPA has been regulating the emissions of acrolein from industrial facilities and vehicles since 1990. The agency already has seen reductions in acrolein emissions and expects to see more reductions in the future, as rules such as the mobile source air toxics and heavy duty highway vehicle rules are fully phased in. The agency plans to continue monitoring for acrolein at various locations across the country. This information will help as the agency looks for other ways to reduce acrolein emissions.
Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from the schools will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for health concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants.
Other schools where the air has or will be monitored in the Southeast include the Crabbe, Hatcher, and Charles Russell Schools in Ashland, Ky.; Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Miss.; Chicora Elementary School in North Charleston, S.C.; and in Tenn., Ashland City Elementary School in Ashland City, West Greene High School in Mosheim, Lakeview Elementary in New Johnsonville, and Vonore Elementary and Middle schools in Vonore.