National Healthy Schools Day

Education
Nutrition

The Healthy Schools Network has been working for over fifteen years to reduce hazards in our nation’s schools. Eleven years ago, they began annually celebrating National Healthy Schools Day, to bring awareness about the importance of healthy school environments. This year, National Healthy Schools Day is April 30th, and the long list of sponsors notably includes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). First Focus has been a proud sponsor of National Healthy Schools Day, because we know the need for awareness and education about reducing indoor environmental hazards in our nation’s schools.

Many of our nation’s schools are not well-maintained or designed with children’s health vulnerabilities in mind, so they contain high levels of dust and mold. Schools also use pesticides and other toxic cleaning materials that aggravate and provoke upper respiratory conditions such as pediatric asthma. Children’s bodies are still developing and they breathe more air per pound than adults, making them particularly vulnerable to poor air quality and the toxins they encounter during their school day. Research shows a direct link between a school’s poor indoor environment and high rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Recognizing this link, the National Healthy Schools Network is a member of the Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition, a new national multi-sector coalition to raise awareness and advance public policies to improve the health of children who suffer from asthma. Formed by the Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN) in partnership with Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University (GWU) and First Focus, the Coalition aims to accelerate prevention and improve the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of childhood asthma through targeted state and federal efforts. For additional information about the Coalition, visit www.childhoodasthma.org.

There are many things that you can do to reduce indoor environmental hazards and lower the rates of childhood asthma, including:

1. Learn more about the negative health effects for children of indoor environmental hazards, as well as what policies and regulations would be helpful to reduce these hazards.

2. Ask your school what types of chemicals they use to fight pests, if they promote good indoor air quality, or if they notify parents when renovations are occurring at school or pesticides are applied.

3. If you don’t like the answers to these questions, start a local or state group to work with school officials to better the environmental conditions in your school. Provide them with the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools Action Kit to guide them on how to improve conditions in their school.

Nearly 50 million children attend public schools every day. Together, we can take action to reduce the environmental hazards in schools that are making our children sick.