To: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Re: Hearing on Green Schools, 10/1/02
From: Tolle Graham, Coordinator Massachusetts Healthy Schools Network
The Massachusetts Healthy Schools Network is a statewide coalition of parent, education, labor, environment and public health activists working to address poor environmental conditions in schools. Through education, technical
assistance and advocacy we have been working on the following initiatives over
the last 5 years:
a.. Design, construction and maintenance for healthy schools
b.. Environmental and Indoor Air Quality information clearinghouse
c.. Promotion of "toxic-free" schools
d.. Establishment of school-based "Environmental Teams"
Here are some of the environmental health and safety problems we have identified in our state:
a. Over 800 schools in Massachusetts are located on or within ½ mile of a
b. School conditions ranking Massachusetts 49th in the nation on the overall
measurement of buildings with at least one inadequate building condition.
c. Asthma rates among school children reported higher in schools with indoor
air quality problems by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment Survey (1999)
d. Teachers report second highest work-related asthma cases in Massachusetts
e. Several hundred new schools currently being built that duplicate some of
the same poor design features that pose potential environmental siting hazards, IAQ problems and maintenance costs that school districts can't afford.
Three years ago the Mass Healthy Schools Network organized the first statewide conference "Designing, Renovating, and Maintaining our School Buildings" co-sponsored by, the Office of Civil Rights in the US Department of Education, the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Twenty-two additional health, environment, school related organizations and agencies endorsed it. Conference participants, encouraged to attend as "teams" from their school districts, included school administrators, teachers, parents, health professionals, school committee members, school design committee members, as well as facilities and maintenance staff.
In a follow-up conference survey, close to 50% of respondents said they would like to see regulations or laws that require Massachusetts Board of Education
School Building Assistance Bureau to include specifications regarding environmental and indoor air quality standards. In addition, they recommended changing the bid process to require all bids to estimate the costs of maintaining the buildings and materials for life cycle cost comparison. Few schools reported even having a written maintenance plan. These responses have been echoed over and over again in all of the activities we've engaged in since that conference.
The Mass Healthy Schools Network has spearheaded some reforms within our state that have the potential for greatly improving school environments and student and staff health. They are:
a. Won passage of the Children's' and Family Protection Act requiring integrated pest management plans in schools and school grounds
b. Adoption of health and safety requirements (SMACNA Guidelines) for schools seeking funds for construction projects from the Massachusetts Department of Education.
c. 2nd State in the nation which is about to adopt a school environmental
siting regulation (public comment period till November 2002).
d. Developed model regulatory language for healthy high performance schools which are being reviewed by the State Board of Education and the Healthy Schools Council - representing state and federal agencies that have some authority over schools
Although we feel encouraged by these actions we feel strongly that Federal requirements and funding are both critical to promote national standards for school environmental health and safety. We therefore support the testimony of our National advocates from the Childproofing Our Communities Campaign and the
New York Healthy Schools Network and specifically ask you to support:
a. Requiring the EPA to develop school environmental siting criteria and proper cleanup guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure for children and school staff
b. Fund and implement the Healthy and High performance Schools provision of the Leave No Child Behind Act
c. Funding to promote "green building" practices in school construction and
d. Reinstate health and safety grants for emergency school renovations (2000)
e. Expand the EPA's schools programs which provides "tools" for schools to address their school indoor air and environmental hazards. If Committee members wish to get more detailed information about our efforts to improve health and school environmental conditions in Massachusetts, please feel free to contact: Tolle Graham, Healthy Schools Program Coordinator, MassCOSH, 617-825-7233 x19 or Tolle.Graham@masscosh.org
The Healthy Schools Network includes:
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter
Boston Urban Asthma Coalition
Bowdoin Street Health Center
MA Association for the Chemically-Injured
MA Coalition for Occupational Safety (MassCOSH)
MA Parent Teacher Association
MA Public Health Association
MA Teachers Association,
MA Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG)
Toxics Action Center