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EPA Presents Award to Chicopee Public School System for Improving Indoor Air Quality; 13 Awards Given Nationally

Release Date: 08/09/2001
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today presented the Chicopee public school system with a national award for improving indoor air quality.

Chicopee has fully implemented EPA's national "Tools for Schools" program, a nationwide initiative to help school officials assess and prevent indoor air quality problems and reduce exposure to asthma-causing substances in schools.

"Chicopee is a national leader in our effort to make Massachusetts schools, and schools all across the nation, healthy and more conducive for learning," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office."Schools using the ‘Tools for Schools' program are seeing tangible reductions in asthma episodes and I urge the other schools to follow their examples."

Chicopee's award was presented today at EPA's second annual Indoor Air Quality "Tools for Schools" National Symposium. More than 360 school officials, health professionals and environmental experts from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for event which focuses on the latest techniques for ensuring clean air in schools and improving children's health.

"Tools for Schools" is a critical piece of EPA New England's Children's Health Initiative. The campaign strives to create healthier and safer classrooms, homes and a cleaner outdoors. More than 200 schools in New England have joined the "Tools for School" program since the Children's Health Initiative was launched last fall. The total number of schools in New England that have benefitted from EPA's "Tools for Schools" program now stands at 368.

Nationally, EPA has issued a call to action against indoor air pollution in schools and the asthma epidemic in children. Recent reports shows that more than 50 percent of our nation's schools have poor ventilation and significant sources of pollution in buildings where nearly 55 million students, teachers and school staff spend time. This especially effects children with asthma who are particularly susceptible to indoor pollutants.

The incidence of asthma in young children has risen by 160 percent in the last 15 years. The condition is responsible for 10 million missed school days per year, making it the leading cause of absenteeism due to a chronic illness. Asthma also disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics and children from low-income families.

EPA's "Tools for Schools" program and the kit which accompanies it shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to improve indoor air problems at little or no cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff. EPA's new action kit includes checklists for all school employees, a flexible step-by-step guide for coordinating the checklists, and Indoor Air Quality Problem Solving Wheel, a fact-sheet on indoor air pollution issues, and sample policies and memos.

EPA's goal is to encourage school officials nationwide to take action this school year to protect the health of students and staff and to create more productive learning environments.

"Our children have a right to a healthy learning environment," Varney said. "Indoor air pollutants, such as mold, can trigger asthma attacks. This is a serious concern because about one of every 13 school-age children suffers from asthma and that rate is climbing."

At the symposium, EPA honored also honored several New England other schools which have fully utilized the low cost techniques provided in EPA's "Tools for Schools" kit: the North Country Union High School, Newport, Vermont; the Connecticut School Indoor Environment Resource Team, Hartford, Conn.; the Nashua School District, SAU#42, Nashua, N.H.; and the Little Harbour School, Portsmouth School District, Portsmouth, N.H.