The Illinois Healthy Schools Campaign and its 85 endorsing organizations are dedicated to making Illinois schools environmentally healthy places to learn and work.
A review of Illinois laws and regulations by the Environmental Law Clinic found a number of glaring problems:
· There are no standards for school indoor air that have been established to protect children’s health. (OSHA has exposure standards; they do not take into account children’s vulnerability and apply only to employees.)
· Current inspection programs only cover traditional health, life and safety issues. They do not address indoor air quality (IAQ). Also, current inspection reports are not readily available to the public.
· Except for the Integrated Pest Management in Schools Act, there are no state initiatives promoting best practices for improving school indoor air.
While most of the responsibility to address this problem lies with state and local governments, we believe that the federal government can and must play a leadership role on this important issue. More specifically, the federal government should:
1. Fund and implement the Healthy and High Performance Schools provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
2. Pass the federal School Environmental Protection Act (SEPA, HR 111 and HR 3275/S 1716 in the 106th Congress) that will encourage schools to 'pest-proof' their buildings and thus reduce their reliance on the routine use of highly toxic chemicals.
3. Fund school repairs and construction, direct a federal grant program at high-needs schools, and offer tax credits to subsidize the interest on school construction bonds used for repairs, renovations, and new construction.
4. Fund the Clean School Bus Grant Program which will encourage the use of natural gas and clean diesel power buses.
5. Strengthen the role of federal agencies (US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education, Department of Energy, and National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) in promoting Healthy and High Performing Schools.
Since children spend most of their hours outside the home in school buildings, policy makers have a responsibility to ensure that children can attend school in a toxin-free and healthy environment. On behalf of the Illinois Healthy Schools Campaign, I want to thank you for addressing these important issues.