Video: Testing for toxic classrooms

updated 3/31/2009 11:49:16 AM ET 2009-03-31T15:49:16

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon be adding a different kind of equipment to dozens of school yards around the country — air pollution monitors.

The EPA announced Tuesday a list of 62 schools in 22 states where the outdoor air will be tested for toxic air contaminants. The agency will work with state and local officials to begin the monitoring at the selected schools within three months.

While the EPA and state and local governments already operate air pollution monitoring networks that collect information on a variety of air pollutants, this will be the first time school-yard air quality will be the focus of their investigations.

The schools were chosen because of their proximity to industrial facilities or other sources of pollution. The list includes elementary, middle school and high school campuses.

The list of schools that will be monitored can be found on the EPA's Web site at

What contaminants will be tested varies depending on the school. But the focus is toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer, respiratory and neurological problems — especially in children, who are more susceptible than adults because they are still growing.

The monitors will measure the air for gases as well as solid particles such as heavy metals and soot, the EPA said.

"EPA, state, and local officials are mobilizing to determine where elevated levels of toxics pose a threat, so that we can take swift action to protect our children at their schools," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The agency will spend $2.25 million purchasing the monitors and paying for the laboratory analysis.

Once in place, the new equipment will collect air samples on 10 days over a month. The EPA will cease monitoring at the school if the results show good air quality. But if high levels of contaminants are detected, the agency will take steps to reduce the pollution.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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