The Mark UP

Michigan children suffer the consequences of air pollution

According to a striking new study from University of Michigan researchers, air pollution near Michigan public schools may jeopardize children’s health and academic success.

It’s surprising that Michigan and 23 other states do not require the environmental quality of areas under consideration for new schools to be evaluated (and they do not prohibit the placement of new industrial facilities and highways near existing schools). This means that school officials often have to site new schools where property values are low, such as near “polluting industrial facilities, major highways, and other potentially hazardous sites.”  The result: More than 63% of Michigan public schools were located in the more polluted parts of their districts.

The study’s authors found that schools located in areas with the highest pollution levels “had the lowest attendance rates (a potential indicator of poor health) and the highest proportions of students failing to meet the state’s educational testing standards.”  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that when you expose children to toxic chemicals, some of which are believed to impair mental development, there will be consequences.

This graphic from the report helps demonstrate that the worst performing schools are often in the most polluted areas:

This is a tragic situation, and we need to take steps to address it.  For example, the location of nearby schools should be considered when building new pollution sources (like industrial facilities).  Likewise, the location of existing industrial facilities and highways should be considered when deciding on the location of new schools.

This problem isn’t limited to Michigan.  Children across the country are exposed to toxic chemicals.  Members of Congress and other elected officials should support safeguards that protect the air and limit children’s exposure to these unhealthy pollutants.

What you can do?  Call your Member of Congress via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202224-3121 and urge them to support clean air legislation.