Ensuring the health of schools and playgrounds

Schools should be environmentally healthy places for children to learn, for teachers to teach, and for other school employees to work. Our society suffers when schools become so run-down and toxic that going there becomes a stress to the body’s systems rather than an inspiration to young minds.

Likewise, playgrounds and parks should be places where kids can play without risk of being exposed to pesticides, contaminated play structures or other health hazards. Parents should not have to worry about much more than sprained ankles and scuffed kneecaps when they let their kids play in such places.

The simple fact is that while parents can exert control over the products they use in their homes, the same doesn’t necessarily true for the schools and playgrounds where their children spend much of their time.

Every day, school and playground environments expose children to high levels of toxic substances, from industrial strength pesticides to harmful building and cleaning materials to playground equipment made of arsenic-treated wood.

The connection between students’ performance and the school environment is something that should not be ignored. The National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and others agree that children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental health hazards. “In a time where so much of our focus is on improving education, it should be paramount that we act to improve the quality of the physical learning environment,” says Rochelle Davis, Executive Director of Generation Green.

The more parents know and speak out about the environmental health issues of their children's schools and playgrounds, the more they can be certain that they are keeping their children as safe as possible.

And the more that Generation Green and other groups (like the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, Healthy Schools Network and National Association of School Nurses) join their voices together to call for improvements to school infrastructure nationwide, the sooner that Congress, school districts and other forces will take action.

One example of how change can occur in our individual states and communities is found in the Illinois Healthy Schools Campaign, which Generation Green helped organize and launch. To find out more about that campaign, as well as school environmental health issues in general, click here.

Another useful place to visit is the Web site for the Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign, which is coordinated by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. The campaign deals with issues related to protecting children from exposures to environmental health hazards in schools and other childcare settings. Visit that site by clicking here.