Thursday, August 12, 2010

School Safety

I was stunned to read recently that schools systems in most states (45 to be exact!) are not obligated by law to avoid building new schools in areas that contain known toxins.  The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has some excellent information in the “School Sitting” section of their website, complete with background data and steps that people can take within their own communities.

I should not be surprised.  But I am.  Again.

Unfortunately, even areas that seem the safest and most natural environments still pose a threat.  We are currently looking for preschools in our area (for NEXT year – I’m not ready to part with my twosome just yet…).  I found a small school with a wonderful reputation for providing a nurturing but solid education to the littlest scholars.  The school is tucked behind a beautiful old church in an idyllic setting, surrounded by fields and farms as far as the eye can see.  Perfect, right?  But all I could think of when I looked over those beautiful fields right next to the adorable miniature playground, was the chemical threat of the generally unregulated pesticides being used within yards of the swings.  I’m not ruling out the school – there are other more obvious dangers anywhere we go.  I get that.  But is it really too much to ask that we are better protected from  the pesticide drift that even the stuck-in-the-mud EPA recognizes as a problem?

I’ve learned a lot from Kristen Hayes-Yearick whose family has been horribly affected by pesticide use in her area.  Exposure to organophosphate pesticides killed her 7-year old Golden Retriever, Tanner, and she describes her family’s health in detail on her Facebook page:

“All three of my children have moderate to severe allergies. Two of my children developed Asthma. One of my children has evidence of Endocrine Disruption. She has a cluster of crystal filled cysts around her Thyroid. She also had chronic bleeding issues controlled only by medication. She has Raynaud's Disease and Vitamin D deficiency. My husband has severe respiratory issues, Asthma, Allergies and an enlarged right side of his heart. We were told the enlargement was due to Oxygen deprivation issues. My husband’s lung function has been so poor he couldn’t have lung function tests at various times because his lungs were too weak. He has been in and out of the Emergency room for Respiratory problems. November 2009, I had to call 911 because he couldn’t breathe, he was unresponsive. None of which was present before, spring of 2005. I have Essential Tremors, muscle degeneration, gait disturbances, allergies, severe Vitamin D deficiency and lesions on my brain. Each of us has different chemical sensitivities.”

So – as another school year approaches, these thoughts are on my mind.  I hope they are also high on the mind of policy makers who can make a much needed difference.

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