Three schools are surrounded by toxic air

December 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
It's not only a dubious distinction, it's potentially dangerous. Three schools in Berkeley subject kids to some of the worst air in the country. Black Pine Circle School, Nia House Learning Center and the Via Center are all private schools located near a toxic site.

Scientists have long known that kids are particularly susceptible to the dangers of bad air. Their bodies are still developing and they breathe more air in proportion to their weight, than adults do. That's why this latest study focused on schools.

Many parents picking up their kids at Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley had already heard that their school is surrounded by toxic air. They say emails have been going back and forth between parents and administrators.

"They explained very well, what happened and what the problem is," said Ping Zhang, a parent.

The problem apparently stems from the school's proximity to a steel plant. According to a study by USA Today and the University of Massachusetts, the high level of pollutants generated by the plant is enough to put Black Pine Circle in a toxic hot spot. The study identified over 400 other schools in similar situations across the country.

As for Bay Area schools, there are only two others in toxic hot spots. The Nia House Learning Center and Via Center are both Berkeley schools near the same steel plant.

"I think some people will pay attention to the fact that "X" school is number one, number two, or number three, but I think that it obscures the fact that all of us are living in an area that's filled with highways and has various industrial pollutants. And I think we should all be tuned-in in general," said Bill Fleig, a parent.

Researcher Asa Bradman Ph.D., from U.C. Berkeley's Center for Children's Environmental Heath, agrees. He says the state should look at the wide range of sources that contribute to bad air everywhere.

"I wouldn't necessarily look at a school and say, "This is a bad school with bad air." Rather we need to understand what's going on here and as a society if we need to, we should do things to protect children," said Bradman.

In the meantime, parents and grandparents say they'll be keeping a closer eye on their kids.

"We do have to watch him with his asthma. And knowing that we're going to have to take extra car," said Anita Ramirez, a grandparent.

This study relied on the government's most up-to-date model for tracking toxic chemicals. It's a computer simulation that predicts the path of toxic chemicals released by companies.


Load Comments