Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC's of Healthy Schools


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This report is a joint effort of member organizations of the Child Proofing Our Communities campaign’s Healthy
Buildings Committee. Child Proofing Our Communities is a locally-based, nationally-connected campaign formed to protect children from exposures to environmental health hazards in or near public schools.

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Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC's of Healthy Schools

  1. 1. Creating Safe Learning Zones:The ABC’sof Healthy SchoolsA Primer of theChild Proofing Our Communities Campaign
  2. 2. Creating Safe Learning Zones:The ABC’s of Healthy SchoolsThis report is a joint effort of member organizations of the Child Proofing Our Communities campaign’s HealthyBuildings Committee. Child Proofing Our Communities is a locally-based, nationally-connected campaign formedto protect children from exposures to environmental health hazards in or near public schools.Grants from the Alida R. Messinger Charitable Lead Trust No. 2, The Bauman Foundation, CS Fund/Warsh-MottLegacy, Educational Foundation of America, Mitchell Kapor Foundation, New York Community Trust, WallaceGenetic Foundation, and the Winslow Foundation fund the campaign. The Center for Health, Environment andJustice provides coordination. The Child Proofing Our Communities campaign coordinator is Paul Ruther.AcknowledgementsMany individuals and organizations have contributed to Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of HealthySchools. Without their time, energy, resources, experience, knowledge and insight the primer would not exist.We particularly want to acknowledge the ongoing efforts of the Healthy Buildings Committee of the Child ProofingOur Communities campaign. The committee conceived of the primer as a community resource and their expertiseshaped the document from conception to completion. The committee members are listed alphabetically byorganizational affiliation:Cindy Craig (AmeriCorps), Steve Ashkin (The Ashkin Group), Sarah Jones (Children’s Environmental HealthInstitute), Mamta Khanna (Center for Environmental Health), Nsedu Obot (Children’s Environmental HealthNetwork), Sue Hughes (Gasport Elementary School Parents), Ruth Etzel (George Washington University Schoolof Public Health), Barbra Batshalom (The Green Roundtable), Bill Walsh (Healthy Buildings Network), ClaireBarnett (Healthy Schools Network), Mark Pfefferle (Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission),Laurie Stillman (Massachusetts Public Health Association), Jayne Mardock (National Religious Partnership forthe Environment), and Lynn Rose (Western Massachusetts COSH).The campaign would like to thank the following individuals and organizations that contributed sidebar stories andprovided comments on the primer. Their insight and willingness to share their experiences have immeasurablyimproved this document.Dr. John Santilli (Allergist/Immunologist, CT), Kagan Owens (Beyond Pesticides), Teresa Mills (BuckeyeEnvironmental Network), Robina Suwol (California Safe Schools), Joellen Lawson (Canary Committee, CT),Mike Foley (City of Somerville, MA), Dennis Livingston (Community Resources, MD), Elodia Blanco (ConcernedCitizens of Agriculture Street Landfill, CA), Bethany Richards (Concerned Parents Group, MI), Mary Cobb andLaurie Stillman (Environmental Health and Safety Committee, MA), Becky Weissman (Falls Church, VA), PaulWenning (Franklin County Board of Health, OH), Cathy Ross (Girard Concerned Parents Group, OH), ChrisNotareschi (Girard Intermediate School, OH), Doug Sacra (HMFH Architects, MA), Margaret Fitzgerald andKathy Hulce (Huckleberry Hill Elementary School, CT), Tom Green (IPM Institute of North America), Kim Ashton(Massachusetts Technology Collaborative), Jeanne Hunt (Missouri ACCESS), Cindy Trahan (North CountryUnion High School, VT), Mary Scarpa (North Country Union High School District, VT), Veronika Carella (PTAmember, Howard County, MD), Leo Barnabei (Radnor Township School District, PA), Judy Braiman (RochestariansAgainst Misuse of Pesticides, NY), Joan Davidson (South Bay Cares, CA), Ben Davis (Vermont PIRG).The campaign would particularly like to thank Lois Gibbs, community leader at Love Canal, who provided theoverall vision and inspiration for the Child Proofing Our Communities campaign and for this primer. The primerwas skillfully wrtten by Shannon Nally. CHEJ Science Director Stephen Lester provided technical oversight.James Tramel, CHEJ’s organizing director, coordinated the primer during its developing stages. CHEJ editorRon Nicosia copyedited the primer. CHEJ’s Barbara Sullivan did the layout , and campaign intern Janell Smithassisted with research. Without the work of these dedicated individuals, the primer would never have beencompleted in a timely and efficient manner.For more information or to order copies of this report contact:Child Proofing Our Communitiesc/o Center for Health, Environment and Justice - P.O. Box 6806 - Falls Church, VA 22040703-237-2249, ext. 21 - - www.childproofing.orgAugust 2002
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTSI. INTRODUCTION 1II. SPECIAL VULNERABILITIES OF CHILDREN 4III. TOXINS FOUND IN SCHOOLS AND IN BUILDING MATERIALS 6 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) 6 Mold 7 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) 9 Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) 9 Asbestos 11 Radon 12 Lead 13 Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide 13 Dust 14IV. BUILDING MATERIALS: FROM HAZARDOUS TO HEALTHIER CHOICES 15 Flooring 15 Paints/Surface Coverings 18 Interior Wood 18 Exterior Wood 19 Windows 20V. THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT 21 Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) 21 Lighting 23 Integrated Pest Management 24 Cleaning and Maintenance 26VI. DESIGNING A HEALTHY SCHOOL 31 Setting Goals and Objectives 31 Site Selection 32 Building a New School 34 Renovation/Remodeling 37 Portable/Modular Classrooms 39VII. GETTING YOUR SCHOOL COMMUNITY INVOLVED 40VIII. CONCLUSION: THE SAFETY OF OUR CHILDREN IS IN OUR HANDS 48REFERENCES 52RESOURCES 56COMMUNITY STORIES Teacher Becomes Anti-Mold Activist--Newtown, Connecticut 8 Getting the Poison Out of Playgrounds--Rochester, New York 10 Asbestos Contamination Shuts Down Entire School District--Brookfield, Connecticut 11 Building an Energy Efficient and Healthy School--Somerville, Massachusetts 19 Ventilation Problems Plague New Schools Too--Girard, Ohio 21 Fresh Air for Vermont Students--Newport, Vermont 22 Parent Fights to Reduce Pesticide Use--Glenwood, Maryland 24 Precautionary Principle Provides Protection from Pesticides--Los Angeles, California 26 Living on a Landfill--New Orleans, Louisiana 33 Healthy School Receives Pennsylvania Governor’s Praise--Radnor Township, Pennsylvania 35 Renovation Unleashes Problems--Lockport, New York 37 Good Things Happen When Children’s Health Is Placed First--Franklin County, Ohio 38 Parents Organize to Rid School of Mold--Mt. Morris, Michigan 45 School Receives Environmental Grants--Milton, Massachusetts 46 Yesterday’s Garbage Is Today’s Environmental Crisis--Palos Verdes, California 47
  4. 4. Chapter I INTRODUCTION Creating a safe environment for learning lower doses. For example, you wouldn’t and for the social, athletic and artistic think to give a child the same strength and activities that students participate in at number of aspirins as you would an adult. school is a goal shared by national leaders, school administrators, and parents Alarmingly, only an estimated 10-20% of everywhere. This “safe environment” is childhood diseases and developmental typically interpreted as a zone free of disorders are attributed to genetic factors. weapons, drugs, offensive clothing and While the remaining causes are not well bullying behavior. Measures such as strict understood (Landrigan, 2000), we do know disciplinary policies, plain-clothed police that over the past 50 years, children have officers, random locker searches, video been at risk for exposure to more than cameras, and school uniforms have been 75,000 synthetic chemicals, especially the adopted for security. 15,000 high-volume chemicals that are widely dispersed. Less than one-half of the This approach to safety, however, neglects high-volume chemicals have been tested for hazards that may be more prevalent and toxicity, and even fewer have been tested harmful to a greater number of students. for toxicity to children (NAS, 1984; US EPA, These dangers may already lurk in a school 1998). at its initial dedication and remain through successive graduating classes. There are It is likely to take many years before scien- dozens of chemicals that are present in tific research will be able to confirm the carpeting, indoor wood products, vinyl links between chemical exposures and the floors, toilet bowl cleaners, graffiti removers incidence of adverse health effects in and weedkillers. Many of these substances children. For now, the best course of action are volatile and will offgas into the air, is to limit and if possible prevent exposure accumulating in well-insulated rooms or to these chemicals. Rather than waiting for areas. The fumes from the offgassing of synthetic chemicals to be regulated, for these chemicals may be inhaled. When children’s sake, they should be considered children attend class, they may be exposed hazardous until proven safe. Parents, to low-level chemical mixtures about which teachers, community members, custodians, scientists understand very little. architects and school board members can become public health stewards by prevent- We do know that there are epidemic rates of ing the intrusion of toxic chemicals into the childhood cancers and learning/developmen- fabric of school buildings. This can be most tal problems in school-aged children (CDC/ effectively done before a school has been NCHS, 2002; NCI, 1999). While many constructed, when there is time to find an studies have linked arsenic and formalde- uncontaminated site and to select the safest hyde to certain cancers and have shown building materials. that lead causes neurological problems, there are many unknowns. Most toxicity Unfortunately, the situation now is that studies are based on adult males, who can children must actually become ill, whether tolerate higher levels of exposure before it be a throat and mouth irritation, nausea, experiencing adverse health effects. asthma or a learning disability, before we do anything. The school is then put on the With smaller bodies, children breathe more defensive. Teachers and parents are often air and eat more food, relative to their size, held accountable for children not succeeding and may be harmed in different ways at 1
  5. 5. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign in school when, in fact, environmental Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of conditions at the school may deserve part of Healthy Schools is the outcome of a the blame. It has been observed, and is nationwide effort to eliminate practices reasonable to expect, that environmental that place children at risk from chemicals improvements will have positive results for in their environment – particularly schools, individual students and the school as a parks, and playgrounds. whole. Absenteeism may decline, students’ concentration may be enhanced, and quality This primer was prepared by the Healthy instruction time increased. Buildings committee of the Child Proofing Our Communities campaign and is the There are no federal laws governing the third in a series of reports. The other environmental health conditions in schools. reports are Poisoned Schools: Invisible The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Threats, Visible Actions, released in March has been the most responsive agency, 2001 (CPOC, 2001) and Creating Safe producing resources that individual schools Learning Zones: Invisible Threats, Visible can use to diagnose and alleviate indoor air Actions, released in January 2002 (CPOC, quality problems (US EPA, 2000). How- 2002). The campaign aims to connect local ever, promising federal initiatives--the efforts across the country, raise awareness Healthy High Performance Schools Act and of toxic threats to children’s health, and health and safety grants for emergency promote precautionary approaches most school renovations--have had funding protective of children. withdrawn. As a consequence, parents, teachers, and community members must We see this primer as the first step in step in to fill the void. At the local level, preparing an in-depth report on the communities need to galvanize and constructing, renovating, or maintaining a sustain efforts to prevent hazardous school healthy school. We are distributing the environments or remediate existing prob- primer to local school activists, PTAs, lems. While legislation remains elusive, health committees and others. Their perhaps the urgent need to address these comments will help us create a practical problems will compel voluntary measures and useful resource. to protect children’s health, creating learn- The chapter summaries that follow are ing spaces where children’s abilities are not intended to serve as a guide to the primer. compromised by toxins. Chapter II, “Special Vulnerabilities of Constructing or renovating a healthy school Children,” discusses why children are more needs to be a cooperative effort between susceptible to toxins and how inadequately parents, students and professionals from they are protected. the fields of architectural design and children’s health. Architects and engineers Chapter III, “Toxins in Schools and are adept at designing structurally sound Building Materials,” explains the threat schools. These professionals also specify from the most common toxic substances what materials will be used in construction- found in schools. While the threats from -from walls and shelving to plumbing building materials such as lead and fixtures. While they may fully understand asbestos are subsiding, mold, vinyl, and building integrity and durability issues, toxic fumes from carpeting present a new very few are trained to consider the health generation of hazards. effects of the chemicals these materials contain.2
  6. 6. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy SchoolsChapter IV, “Building Materials: FromHazardous to Healthier Choices,” puts thehazards identified in Chapter III in context,identifying especially problematic buildingmaterials. Materials containing toxins arenot essential to the structure or furnishingof a school, and healthier alternatives areavailable.Chapter V, “The Indoor Environment,”discusses ways to improve indoor airquality and lighting as well as maintenancepractices that avoid the use of toxicchemicals.Chapter VI, “Designing a Healthy School,”outlines the lengthy process of designingand renovating a school from conception tocompletion. It explains how to construct orrenovate a healthy school to avoid orminimize toxic hazards.Chapter VII, “Getting Your SchoolCommunity Involved,” explains how tomobilize support for a healthy schoolbuilding and work with architects, schoolboards, and contractors to ensure that ourchildren’s health is protected at school.Chapter VIII, “The Safety of Our ChildrenIs in Our Hands,” describes steps thatparents can take to identify and addresssome of the most common environmentalhealth problems in schools. 3
  7. 7. Chapter II SPECIAL VULNERABILITIES OF CHILDREN During a critical period of their growth and period of their lives. Because their tissues development, children spend a large part of and organ systems are still developing, they the day at school. To needlessly place them are susceptible to environmental chemical in settings that increase the risk of disease, influences over an extended time. hyperactivity, or lower IQ is therefore irresponsible, especially in light of recent Children move through several stages of health studies that document an increased rapid growth and development. Growth is incidence of childhood cancer and disease most rapid from conception to age 7. The (NCI, 1998). Expressed first by parents, ensuing years, through adolescence, bring health concerns about exposures to continued growth as crucial systems, such chemicals in the environment are now as the reproductive system, mature. being echoed nationally by the US Insulation of brain nerve fibers is not Environmental Protection Agency, the complete until adolescence. Similarly, air National Academy of Sciences, Physicians sacs in the lungs, where oxygen enters the for Social Responsibility and the National blood stream, increase in number until Parents Teachers Association. adolescence (Needleman, 1994). All these groups agree that society should During these critical years, as structures take steps to prevent childhood exposure to and vital connections develop, bodily toxins that pose unnecessary health risks. systems are not suited to repair damage Children attend school at least 180 days a caused by toxins. Thus, if neurotoxins year. Taking measures to prevent children assault cells in the brain, immune system, from being exposed to toxic chemicals at or reproductive organs, or if endocrine school must be a critical part of any effort disruption diverts development, the to protect children’s health. resulting dysfunction will likely be permanent and irreversible. Depending on What makes children especially vulnerable the organ damaged, consequences can to environmental chemicals? include lowered intelligence, immune dysfunction, or reproductive impairment Children are not little adults (Landrigan, 1998). Children are more often exposed to environmental threats than adults and are Children’s immature systems are more vulnerable to environmentally-caused less able to handle toxins diseases. Of small size and still developing, they take in more food, drink, and air per Because organ systems are still developing, pound of body weight than adults do. Also, children absorb, metabolize, detoxify and children behave like children. excrete poisons differently from adults. In some instances, children are actually better Children are still developing and able to deal with environmental toxins. remain vulnerable through More commonly, they are less able and thus adolescence much more vulnerable (Landrigan, 1998). For example, children absorb about 50% of During prenatal development, infancy, and the lead to which they are exposed, while adolescence, children are growing and adding adults absorb only 10-15%. Their less new tissue more rapidly than at any other developed immune systems are also more4
  8. 8. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy Schoolssusceptible to bacteria such as strep, to ear Children’s natural curiosity leads them toinfections, to viruses such as flu, and to explore situations that could expose themchemical toxins (Needleman, 1994). to environmental hazards. For example, they may enter fenced-off areas or pollutedChildren eat more, drink more, and creeks and streams (Bearer, 1995).breathe more Children have more time to developChildren consume more calories, drink diseasemore water and breathe more air per poundthan adults. Their body tissues more Children’s longer remaining life spanreadily absorb many harmful substances, provides more time for environmentallyand outside play heightens their exposure induced diseases to develop. Exposure toto environmental threats relative to adults. carcinogens as a child, as opposed to adult exposure, is of particular concern sinceU.S. children ages one to five eat three to cancer can take decades to developfour times more per pound of body weight (Landrigan, 1998).than the average adult. Infants andchildren drink more water on a body-weightbasis and they take in more air.Differences in body proportions betweenchildren and adults mean that childrenhave proportionately more skin exposure(NRC, 1993).Children behave like childrenNormal activities increase children’svulnerability to environmental threats.Their natural curiosity, tendency toexplore, and inclination to place theirhands in their mouths often exposes themto health risks adults readily avoid.Young children crawl and play on theground or floor and play outside. Thesenatural proclivities expose them tocontaminated dust and soil, pesticideresidue, chemicals used to disinfect orclean, garden weed killers, fertilizers andother potentially hazardous substances.Air pollution impacts children more readilybecause they are frequently outdoors andphysically active. They thus breathe morepollutants directly and deeply into theirlungs. 5
  9. 9. Chapter III TOXINS FOUND IN SCHOOLS AND IN BUILDING MATERIALS You’re reading the local paper when a children and staff have occupied the building. headline in thick black letters catches your The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning eye, “Growth Brings Need for New School.” system (HVAC) can transport these toxins Reading further, you discover that this new throughout the school, and it can exacerbate school will be built in your neighborhood. a problem by distributing contamination This is the school where your children will from one part of a school to another. Air spend many hours listening, singing, quality further deteriorates from indoor or sharing information, creating art, running outdoor pesticide applications, the routine and playing. use of harsh cleaning chemicals, and the release of potent ingredients in markers and Perhaps you don’t have children that will paints. Biological contaminants, such as attend school, but you work at a school or mold and mildew, can waft through the air across the street from one. Perhaps the and quickly spread over surfaces. These school is merely a big project to which your sources create poor indoor air quality, but tax dollars will contribute. Whatever your can be controlled or eliminated by careful relationship to this school, everyone’s practices and by using effective, alternative interests demand and justify a building products. that will not only foster academic success but protect the health of students, teachers Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and employees. In late summer, the “back to school” frenzy The VOC family includes a variety of toxic kicks into high gear. Students and their chemicals, some with recognizable names – parents hurry to stores to purchase formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. As notebooks, folders, paper, and other the name suggests, these substances are supplies for the upcoming school year. One volatile--meaning that they easily item that appears annually is a box of evaporate into the air. VOCs are tissues. Stockpiling begins on the first day dangerous to people since they can of school for the runny noses and coughs accumulate indoors and can be readily that seem to be an inherent part of the inhaled. academic year. While these symptoms may be caused by germs, often overlooked are VOCs can cause short-term or long-term other culprits, such as mold, or toxins in health effects, depending upon the toxic carpet glues, wood preservatives, cleaning properties of the substance, length of products and other building materials. exposure, the VOC concentration, and the Toxic chemicals in these products can individual’s susceptibility. Symptoms accumulate in schools to be breathed, eaten associated with exposure may occur for a or touched by students, triggering an short time (acute) or last for long periods immediate reaction or subtly harming them (chronic) and perhaps, permanently. Acute over long periods of time. effects include nose and throat discomfort, headache, shortness of breath, nausea, Building materials such as paints, floor dizziness, and fatigue. Cancer and damage coverings, and sealants are often laden with to organs and the central nervous system toxins that emit harmful fumes after are examples of chronic effects that begin to6
  10. 10. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy Schoolsdevelop during exposure but appear years Moldlater (US EPA, 1995). Mold, sometimes called the “new asbestos,”VOCs are found in paints and paint looms as a tremendous problem. The cost ofstrippers; carpeting; pressed wood used in mold infestation in schools is formidable:desks, shelving and wall materials; health problems, disrupted learning time duecleaning supplies, glues, caulks, and to school closings or relocations, and theadhesives; and pesticides. Formaldehyde, price of fixing the problem.for example, is used in the glue that holdswood fragments together to form Approximately 1,000 species of mold exist inparticleboard, plywood, and fiberboard (see the United States (NYC DOH, 2001).Chapter IV). Sixty percent of the total Moisture is the key to mold growth. Indoorcontent of oil/alkyl paints can be VOCs, mold typically grows in damp or wet areasadded as carriers for the pigment (Bower, such as bathrooms, basement walls, around1993). The adhesives used between the windows, and near leaking water pipes orlayers of carpeting, backing, and the faucets. Common sources or causes ofsubfloor emit VOCs. moisture problems include roof leaks, deferred maintenance, condensationBrand new products contain higher levels associated with high humidity or cold spotsof VOCs that are slowly released over time in buildings, localized flooding due tointo the surrounding air. In heat and plumbing failures or heavy rains, slow leakshumidity, VOCs evaporate more easily. in plumbing fixtures, malfunctioning orTight, energy efficient buildings tend to poorly designed humidification systems,trap VOCs, allowing the vapors to uncontrolled humidity in hot, humidaccumulate indoors. VOC-containing climates, and damaged or failed gutters andmaterials should be well ventilated before drainage systems (US EPA, 2001). Ceilinginstallation to allow as many toxins as tiles, carpeting, drywall, and insulation canpossible to escape. However, the length of serve as food sources for molds, whichthis airing-out period depends on the require dead or decaying organic matter toproduct. Some VOC levels, such as those in survive.latex paints, fall significantly after a fewweeks, while others, in wood products and Molds produce tiny spores for the samecarpeting, persist for years. Airing out purpose that many plants produce seeds – toVOC-containing materials will reduce but reproduce. These tiny spores can be found innot eliminate VOC fumes. both indoor and outdoor air. When they settle on wet surfaces, they quickly begin toMany of the VOC-containing building grow, digesting whatever they are growingmaterials have safer counterparts such as on, eventually destroying the surface. Somepaints that have low or zero VOC spores can easily be resuspended by airemissions. A synthetic, low offgassing movement while others are “sticky” and cansealant or shellac may help prevent VOCs move only by direct contact. Somefrom escaping into the air from materials in compounds produced by molds are volatilethe classroom. However, the most prudent and can evaporate from a surface. Theseroute is to avoid the use of materials that substances can be the source of the strongcontain VOCs when safer options are odors commonly associated with molds.available. 7
  11. 11. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign Indoor mold problems have become more reporting leaks or moisture buildup. Wet common since the 1970s and the advent of areas should be dried or removed since tightly sealed energy efficient buildings. The mold growth can set in after just 24 to 48 lack of exchange between indoor and outdoor hours. Existing mold must be dealt with air allows dampness to collect on some promptly by trained experts. In all surfaces. When spores land on these situations, the underlying cause of the “reservoirs,” mold can grow uncontrollably. Heating and air conditioning systems can exacerbate mold growth by spreading spores throughout a building and depositing them Teacher Becomes on “fertile ground.” Buildings with elevated Anti-Mold Activist relative humidity (greater than 45-50%) present an optimal environment for fungal Newtown, Connecticut—In June, 1998 Joellen growth, especially if there is an abundance of Lawson, a twenty-three year career special absorbant material, such as carpeting, paper, education teacher, educational consultant, and and pressed wood. These materials absorb seminar leader found herself in a hospital moisture from the air, promoting mold emergency room after removing mold- growth. contaminated materials from her classroom closets at McKinley Elementary School in Fairfield. All molds have the potential to cause health Her exposure to mold mycotoxins left her unable effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, to work and she was forced to accept a disability and in some cases toxic substances called retirement. Two years later, McKinley was mycotoxins. More than 200 mycotoxins have permanently closed due to pervasive mold been identified. Stachybotrys chartarum contamination, but not before over fifty other (also called Stachybotrys atra), which is often students and school staff reported health found in indoor environments, produces a complaints such as migraines, seizures, severe variety of potent mycotoxins, including asthma attacks, and chronic sinus infections. satratoxin. Exposure to molds or mold spores can trigger a wide range of reactions In response to the publication of her story in NEA including headaches, breathing difficulties, Today magazine, Joellen began to make contacts skin irritation, allergic reactions, with other teachers and parents of sick children aggravation of asthma symptoms, bloody with similar horror stories about mold. Turning noses, and eye irritation (US EPA, 2001). her tragedy into action, she testified before the Connecticut General Assembly to promote indoor The extent of the response and the degree of air quality (IAQ) legislative initiatives. To ensure symptoms depends in part on the types of the passage of effective IAQ legislation next mold present, the extent of exposure, the session, she has joined with concerned teachers, individual’s age, and their existing parents and medical professionals to form the sensitivities and allergies. Presently, there Canary Committee, a grassroots political action are no national standards or guidelines that group. Despite poor health, Joellen continues to define a “safe” level of mold in air. As a work to ensure that others won’t have to go result, air sampling to detect the presence of through the same hell. “Networking and mold spores is not routinely done in schools. supporting other afflicted teachers and parents of Fungal loads also vary substantially over sick children has been the most healing and time. empowering part of this experience,” she explains. Ideally, preventative methods should be in place to thwart mold growth. Custodians, staff, and students can be responsible for8
  12. 12. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy Schoolsmoisture accumulation must be eliminated PVC products also pose threats. A studyor the mold growth will continue. The goal published in the American Journal of Publicof any remediation should be “to remove or Health showed that children exposed to PVCclean contaminated materials in a way that flooring in nurseries, bedrooms, and otherprevents emission of fungi and dust rooms have an 89% higher risk of bronchialcontaminated with fungi from leaving a obstruction due to the offgassing ofwork area and entering an occupied or plasticizers (Jaakkola, 1999). The long-termnonabatement area, while protecting the health risks associated with plasticizershealth of the workers performing the include immune system damage, asthma,abatement” (NYC DOH, 2000). reproductive problems, and cancer. Moreover, if there is a fire and PVCThe US EPA (2001), the city of New York materials burn, extremely toxic gases, such(NYC DOH, 2001 and NYC DOH 2000), and as furans and dioxins, will be released.the state of California (CDHS, 2001) offerexcellent resources on how to investigate While PVC is cheap and easy to install, itsand remediate an indoor mold problem. toll on the environment and human health is harsh. Alternative materials are available and vary depending on the intended use.Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Flooring options, for example, include wood, cork, and linoleum while alternative piping materials include copper, clay, andPVC, or vinyl, is a fine, white powder to galvanized steel. Greenpeace has compiledwhich petroleum-based plasticizers an informative resource that describes the(phthalates) and stabilizers (lead, cadmium, alternatives to PVC building productsorgano-tins) are added for flexibility, (Greenpeace, 2002).strength, and heat resistance. In schools,PVC is used in piping, flooring, carpetfibers and backing, windows and doorframes, vinyl siding, blinds, electrical Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)cables, and wall coverings. Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a woodThe greatest concern about the use of PVC preservative made with arsenic, chromiummaterials is the pollution generated during and copper that is intended to reduce damagemanufacture and disposal (Greenpeace, from insects, mildew, and fungi. This1997). PVC manufacturing is based on pesticide mixture, which is 22% pure arsenic,chlorine, which releases dioxins when is forced into the wood under pressure. CCAheated or ignited. Dioxin is one of the most does not permanently bind to the wood buttoxic substances ever tested. It causes leaches into surrounding soil, offgasses intocancer, reproductive and developmental the air and rubs off on skin, clothing, andeffects, and can disrupt the hormonal, shoes. This “bleeding” may continue for yearsimmune, and neurological systems. This after the wood has been set outside (EWG,toxin, which builds up in fatty tissue, is also 2001).released when PVC is incinerated. Thecreation and disposal of PVC is most CCA-treated wood is common in playgroundharmful to exposed workers and equipment, picnic tables, gazebos, and othersurrounding communities since the outdoor equipment. The freshly treated woodchemicals may contaminate soil, water and has a greenish tint. Unless it is cedar orair (HB, 2000). redwood, which remain untreated, most 9
  13. 13. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign Getting the Poison Out of Playgrounds Rochester, New York—Two years ago, Judith Braiman, a long-time consumer rights activist, became concerned about her grandchildren playing on public playgrounds contaminated with arsenic from the chromated copper arsenate (CCA) used to treat wood. When she and other members of Rochestarians Against Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP) began testing the playgrounds in Rochester and surrounding communities, they found high levels of arsenic contamination. Last October, RAMP held a press conference to announce that most Rochester playgrounds contained unsafe levels of arsenic and to call on the State Health department to test all New York playgrounds with CCA-treated wood. Following the press conference, several playgrounds were closed and state-wide legislation was introduced to clean up arsenic-laced playgrounds and ban the use of pressure-treated wood in new playgrounds. The legislation has passed through the New York Senate and Assembly and is currently awaiting Governor Pataki’s signature. Meanwhile, RAMP continues to test playgrounds and has found that even where the pressure-treated wood has been resealed, Rochester playgrounds continue to have unsafe levels of arsenic. outdoor wood in the U.S. is treated with After health and envionmental activists CCA (US CPSC, 2002). CCA is also used exposed the potential health risks to indoors in new construction for any wood children and launched a campaign that comes in contact with the ground or demanding that major home-product stores that is placed above brick and block take the contaminated wood off their foundations. shelves, the industry and US EPA came to an agreement to phase out some uses of Children absorb arsenic through the skin CCA by December 31, 2003 (US CPSC, by touching the wood, or they ingest it by 2002). The ban will cover wood used for putting their hands in their mouths after decks and patios, picnic tables, playground touching the wood or eating food off a CCA- equipment, walkways and boardwalks, treated picnic table. landscaping timbers, and fencing. However, until that date, existing supplies Arsenic is recognized as a human poison of CCA-treated wood can continue to be and causes a wide range of adverse health sold and used. effects. The immediate effects of exposure to high levels of arsenic include seizures, The Environmental Working Group has nausea, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm, published a resource on arsenic-treated and blood vessel and permanent nerve wood and children’s health called Poisoned damage. Ingestion of a large amount can Playgrounds (EWG, 2001). The US Product cause death. Long-term effects include Safety Commission has published a useful cancer of the lung, bladder, and skin question and answer fact sheet on CCA- (ATSDR, 2000). treated wood (US CPSC, 2002).10
  14. 14. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy SchoolsAsbestos Asbestos Contamination ShutsAsbestos is a very thin and lightweight Down Entire School Districtmineral fiber that can remain suspended inthe air for a long time. Asbestos is most Brookfield, Connecticut—Music teacher Margaretlikely to be found in schools that were built Fitzgerald and her colleague Lynn Orzolek at theduring or before the 1970s. Used for Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES) hadinsulation and fire retardation, asbestos is complained for years to the school administration abouttypically found in insulation around pipes, the problems with dust, dirt, mold and ventilation in theirductwork and boilers; on surface materials classroom. Each day, in order to teach in the room,sprayed for fireproofing or insulating; in they sprayed, sprinkled and spread carpet freshener toceiling tiles, floor tiles, and wall boards; cover up the odor in the room and then vacuumed itand in caulking, adhesives, and glues. thoroughly.Asbestos is particularly dangerous becausethe nearly invisible particles can be inhaled In 2000, during renovation work at the school, severaland settle deep in the lungs. Symptoms of parents began looking into irregularities with the district’sasbestos exposure may not show up until Asbestos Management Plan. After asbestos ceiling tilesyears later in the form of lung cancer, were removed from the school, pressure from parentsmesothelioma (cancer of the chest and resulted in testing that revealed high asbestos levels inabdominal linings), and asbestosis (scarring schools throughout the district. One of the asbestosof the lungs). Children are at greater risk “hot spots” was right outside Margaret and Lynn’sfrom asbestos harm because they have classroom. The school board and superintendenthigher respiration rates, and asbestos fibers maintained that the schools were safe and beingremain in their bodies for longer periods of properly cleaned, rebuffing parents’ efforts to get thetime. district to move aggressively to reduce asbestos levels.Asbestos materials do not become In May of 2002, Kathy Hulce, one of many parentshazardous until they are “friable”-- i.e., frustrated with the asbestos policy, had dust from thethey crumble or become powdery, which music classroom tested for asbestos. When it cameresults from handling or applying gentle back positive, Margaret, without the knowledge of thepressure. Improper cutting, sanding, school administration, followed up by having a localrenovation activities, and general wear and environmental firm do micro-vac samples in the musictear can release fibers into the air. room. These tests showed that asbestos levels in the classroom were extraordinarily high. Shortly thereafter,The 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency tests by both Margaret’s independent environmentalResponse Act (AHERA) requires schools to assessor and the school district resulted in the closinginspect for asbestos and, if found, to of HHES for further testing and cleaning.develop a management plan to control theasbestos. Each school district appoints an At a public forum following the school’s closure, parents“AHERA-designated person” to implement demanded that all the district’s schools be tested—whichthe management plan, which must be led to the closing of all four schools due to asbestosavailable for review upon request. In contamination. Brookfield is now spending over $4addition, the local education agency must million to clean up its schools, leaving parents wonderinginspect schools for asbestos, safely maintain what would have happened if Kathy and Margaret hadn’tthe asbestos, take action to remove or acted on their own to find out the truth about asbestosencapsulate it, if necessary, and notify the at HHES.public at least once per year of asbestos-related activities at each school. The 11
  15. 15. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign overall effectiveness of the asbestos The major risk from radon is lung cancer. management program largely depends Radon gas latches onto airborne particles upon the “designated person.” This such as dust, which are then inhaled. individual does not have to be accredited or These small particles are carried deep into have graduated from a training program, the lungs, emitting radiation into the but should, according to AHERA, have surrounding tissue. Radon-contaminated adequate experience (Miller, 1995). water, when heated for showering, bathing, washing and cooking, releases gas vapors Regular inspections, by a local authority, that can be inhaled. Children are are required to ensure that all asbestos- particularly sensitive to radon because they containing materials in the schools are not breathe more quickly and receive a higher deteriorating or crumbling. Asbestos that dose than an adult exposed at the same is not friable is best left in place since level (US EPA, 1992). removal increases the risk for exposure. Where damage has occurred, repair should Radon contamination, however, is not follow promptly. Spraying a sealant over widespread and is easily detectable and the material or placing a barrier around it preventable. The EPA recommends but can stop or minimize exposure until the does not mandate radon testing. In areas asbestos is removed. prone to radon problems (this information can be provided by state radiation health Ideally, students and staff should not be in departments), the indoor levels of this gas the building when removal occurs. Only should be closely monitored. Qualified experienced workers should handle the testing contractors who meet EPA’s Radon asbestos removal. Some states have their Measurement Proficiency (RMP) Program own training and certification program for requirements will carry an RMP asbestos removal contractors. The US EPA identification card. The EPA has is a good resource for information about established a Radon Contractor Proficiency asbestos contractors by state. If there is an Program to certify people to evaluate radon established program in your state, only problems and help with a remediation plan certified contractors should be working (US EPA, 1995). with asbestos on school property. Your state radon office has a list of these contractors and may have information on Radon available financial resources to defray expenses. Local school districts may also Radon is a gas that is naturally present at provide information on any radon issues low levels outdoors but may reach harmful they have confronted. concentrations in tightly sealed buildings or near uranium mining activities. Invisible Prior to school construction, assess whether and odorless, radon forms when uranium radon might become a problem and take decays in soil or rock. Areas of the country preventive steps to avoid sky-high that lie above undisturbed uranium beds are correction costs. Soil at the proposed site more prone to higher background levels of should be tested for radium and uranium. radon. Radon becomes problematic for Radon gas can be prevented from entering school children and staff when it seeps into a building foundation by installing a series the school’s water supply or through cracks in of pipes running through a concrete slab the foundation, floors, walls and other foundation. The soil gases will collect in openings near or below ground level and accumulates inside schoolrooms.12
  16. 16. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy Schoolsthe area of low pressure within the pipes should be inspected to assess the likelihoodand a fan, placed beneath the slab, will for lead exposure. Air and dust should bedraw the gases away from the foundation tested regularly and, if necessary, the lead(Miller, 1995). materials should be removed and replaced.The US EPA maintains radon maps Ideally, children should not be in a lead-showing the risk for radon contamination contaminated building during anyat the county level. This agency also remediation, renovation, or constructionmaintains a list of state radiation health activities. Some paint removal techniques,departments (US EPA, 1992). such as sanding and scraping, grind the lead to a fine dust and create a dangerous increase in air lead levels. Puncturing orLead tearing out walls and opening and closing painted windows can produce inhalable lead dust. Any maintenance work in areasOne of the environmental health success containing lead-based paint should bestories of this century has been the removal scheduled when school is not in session,of lead from gasoline and paint, causing and the areas should be isolated to preventblood lead levels to decline by 94% between the spread of lead dust.1976 and 1997 (CDC, 1997). Taking samples from every faucet andLead, however, remains a concern in school fountain can reveal the presence and extentbuildings, especially those dating to the of drinking water contamination. Lead1970s and earlier. The sources of lead may leach into drinking water frominclude plumbing, chipped and peeling corroding pipes, solder used to connect thelead-based interior paint, contaminated soil pipes together, or lead-lined water coolerfrom exterior paint or vehicle exhaust tanks. As recently as 1988, lead solder wasfumes, and dust that is generated when used to bond copper plumbing (Miller,painted surfaces containing lead rub 1995). If lead exceeds safe levels, thetogether, such as windows. dangerous plumbing should be removed and replaced with more stable materials,If ingested or inhaled, lead can be carried such as copper or galvanized steel and lead-by the bloodstream to organs and tissues free solder.throughout the body. In some instances,such as lead in gasoline, lead can beabsorbed through the skin. Children are Carbon Monoxide and Carbonespecially vulnerable to lead, which canaffect the brain and nervous system, lower DioxideIQ levels, delay physical development,shorten attention spans and increasebehavioral problems (US EPA, 1995). Some Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless andeffects on the central nervous system may odorless gas that forms when fuel, such asbe permanent. gas, oil or kerosene, is burned. Malfunctioning furnaces, boilers, cooking equipment, and vehicle exhaust can spewDue to lead’s widespread notoriety, lead harmful levels of CO into the air. When ahas been banned in paint and its use in space is poorly ventilated, CO gasbuilding materials has fallen sharply. If accumulates and has varying healthlead is present in a building, the building consequences. Breathing carbon monoxide 13
  17. 17. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign interferes with the blood’s ability to carry can contain plant and animal materials, oxygen to the body’s organs and can cause a such as cotton, wool, feathers, and animal range of symptoms depending on how much hairs, from materials used in the home; CO is present, how long it has been there, stuffing from mattresses, pillows, and and the overall health and age of the person upholstered furniture; human skin scales, exposed. Low levels of CO gas can result in animal dander, insect parts, mold, dizziness, headache, weakness, fatigue, bacteria, viruses and pollen; and nausea and vomiting, while high doses can contaminants from tobacco smoke, bring on a coma and heart and lung failure cosmetic powders, and cleaning products (NSC, 1999). (OSUE, 1996). Inhaling these substances can cause allergic reactions in some Carbon monoxide poisoning usually can be children. avoided with the proper care and use of fuel- burning equipment and adequate indoor/ Dust can also contain a wide range of toxic outdoor air exchange. Entrance ways and substances. Researchers have identified vents placed away from traffic areas can some 30 different chemicals in dust prevent vehicle exhaust from entering the samples, including many known to cause school (NSC, 1999). Carbon monoxide cancer in people or animals (Roberts, detectors that meet the Underwriters 1999). Dust can include cadmium, lead, Laboratories or similar standards are not a and other heavy metals, as well as substitute for preventive measures and pesticides, polycyclic aromatic should only be used as a secondary line of hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated defense. Though much improved in recent biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates and other years, these devices are not perfect. They persistent organic pollutants. If truckloads are not sensitive to low levels of CO and false of dust with the same concentration of alarms can be a problem (Donnay, 2000). toxic chemicals that can be found in most carpets were deposited outside our homes, The burning of heating fuels can also these areas would be considered hazardous produce carbon dioxide (CO2), another waste dumps (Ott, 1998; Roberts, 1999). odorless gas. When the indoor/outdoor air exchange is stagnant, carbon dioxide levels rise. Poor air exchange in a room or building can also lead to CO2 buildup from the respiration of people using the space. Above a certain threshold, mental clarity begins to suffer. A continuous, plentiful supply of fresh outdoor air prevents carbon dioxide buildup and supports an environment conducive to instruction and learning. Dust Common dust is often thought of as little more than a nuisance, unsightly perhaps, but hardly a health hazard. Dust, however, is not merely the innocuous dirt that kids like writing their names in. Dust14
  18. 18. Chapter IV BUILDING MATERIALS: FROM HAZARDOUS TO HEALTHIER CHOICES Healthier building materials are available. Area rugs offer very little advantage over However, it often requires some work to wall-to-wall carpeting. All carpeting acts find out about the best alternatives to like a magnet to collect and hold mold commonly-used toxic products. This spores, dust, and other contaminants from chapter reviews some of the materials that the air. Area rugs can also be a significant can be used for large surface areas in saftey hazard. Smaller, light-weight rugs schools – floors, walls, and furnishings. easily slide, presenting a significant There are several good resources, including tripping, slipping, and falling hazard. the book Prescriptions for a Healthy (FCDBH, 2001). Larger area rugs may also Household (Baker-Laporte, 2001) and the roll or slide. Tape is often used to secure Collaborative for High Performance area rugs to the floor, but doing this makes Schools’ (CHPS) Best Practices Manual it difficult to clean under the rug and to (CHPS, 2001), which we have relied on for clean the rug itself. our discussion of healthier construction materials. Additional resources are Carpeting and carpet installation material mentioned at the end of several sections. can contain up to 120 chemicals, many of them toxic (Duehring, 1996). New carpets When weighing options for building may emit fumes, some with distinct odors materials, estimates need to include the from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) cost of maintaining the material such as 4-PC (4-phenylcylohexene), toluene, throughout its life as well as the upfront benzene and the chemicals in the fungicidal costs. What needs to be done with the and stain-proofing treatments applied to material to keep it in top shape? How some carpets. Typically, the VOC levels frequently? What supplies are needed? decrease substantially several months after These factors must be taken into account installation, but they may persist for a year for an accurate estimate of the true cost of a or longer. The offgassing chemicals in new product. carpeting may trigger ear, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea, fatigue, Flooring rashes, respiratory problems, asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity (Miller, 1995). Regular carpet maintenance also requires Carpeting cleaners and shampoos that often contain Wall-to-wall carpeting is a popular choice toxic solvents. for flooring, but it is not the healthiest. School carpets are usually tufted nylon In response to concerns about the health attached to a backing with latex (Miller, effects attributed to carpeting, the Carpet 1995). The installation requires glues, and Rug Institute, which represents 95% of synthetic fiber backing and pads, all of the industry, launched the Green Tag which can introduce pollutants into the Program in 1992. The label on the rug environment. Even after installation and claims that after measuring the levels of airing out, carpeting can still pose problems certain substances, such as 4-PC and total by becoming a reservoir for dust, mites, VOCs, the carpet has met indoor air quality mold, pesticides, and chemicals tracked in testing criteria. The Green Tag label, on shoes. however, does not mean that the carpet is safe since the carpet has not been tested for 15
  19. 19. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign all chemicals. Moreover, industry has not Hard-surface flooring sought to obtain independent safety Concrete, wood, terrazzo, and ceramic tiles standards for these chemicals (Baker- are examples of hard flooring offering Laporte, 2001). several opportunities for safer school construction. While the installation process There may be some locations where is not hazard-free, these floors emit far carpeting may be appropriate, such as fewer toxins once they are laid down, and libraries and music rooms. If a carpet must they last for many years. Concrete may be installed, there are several ways to seem dull, but pigments can added for reduce the toxins entering the school. color, and brick or cobblestone patterns can Carpets should be chosen that have not had be used to give the concrete a different stain-resistant, fire-retardant or pesticide texture. Concrete holds up very well in treatments. Untreated, natural fiber high traffic areas such as hallways, carpets such as wool or cotton are the best cafeterias and foyers. Concrete can be choices (Duehring, 1996). finished with a sealant and wax, which require periodic reapplication. Carpet backings are notorious for causing adverse health effects. To minimize the Solid wood floors are usually reserved for potential problems, avoid backings gymnasiums or special areas. This containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC), material costs more upfront, but its natural styrene, butadiene and rubber. Jute, a durability reduces the need for preservative natural fiber, provides a naturally durable chemical treatments and reinstallations. surface that does not require toxic The lifespan of a wood floor is expected to treatments to endure heavy traffic be at least 38 years (CHPS, 2001). If the (Duehring, 1996). costs are prohibitive, consider wood floors for areas where students spend a majority Carpet installation is least problematic at of their time, such as the classrooms. the beginning of the summer, when students and staff are away and won’t be A material with similar benefits and returning for several months. Once the appearance to wood is bamboo. A type of carpet has been laid down, the building grass, bamboo creates a surface that is needs to be well ventilated with fans to more durable than hardwood--12% harder draw the fumes outside. than rock maple. Regular cleaning of carpeting is important Wood and bamboo are nailed or glued to a for maintaining clean air. The carpet fibers subsurface and then sealed for protection. act as a sink, trapping pollutant particles. Nailing is preferable since most adhesives However, data from the Carpet and Rug contain harmful solvents. If adhesives are Institute indicates that it takes four passes used, solvent-free or 100% silicone with a vacuum to remove “a satisfactory adhesives are better (Baker-Laporte, 2001). quantity of soil” from the surface of the rug Selecting a safe topcoat sealer is especially (CRI, 2002). The rest stays and important because porous materials such as accumulates in the carpeting. Few carpeting or fabric-covered wallboards will custodians are aware that they need to pass absorb toxic vapors from freshly sealed the vacuum over carpeting four times to do floors. A clear water-based sealer with no a thorough cleaning, and fewer still would have the time to do it16
  20. 20. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy Schools or low-VOC emissions is a good choice. Resilient/composition floor coveringsNatural sealers, such as those with linseed Composition flooring includes vinyl, the mostoil, are the least toxic, though linseed has a popular material, and synthetic rubber, asstrong odor during and shortly after the well as healthier materials, such as cork andapplication. linoleum. Composition flooring comes in rolled sheets and tiles and may be quite softCeramic tiles are made from combinations of due to added plasticizers, such as phthalatesdifferent earth materials, such as shale, clay, in PVC, which offgas readily.and gypsum, which are fired into a hard,non-reactive surface. Ceramic tile is Steer clear of vinyl and synthetic rubbernaturally resistant to moisture buildup and sheet materials for any cushioned floorcan prevent mold and mildew problems. The covering. These surfaces can emit chemicaltile may be glazed or unglazed, but the glaze fumes long after installation (See section onholds up better under heavy foot traffic and PVC in Chapter III). Airing out the vinyldoes not require a sealer. Imported ceramic composition tile (VCT) in a warehouse totiles, however, may contain lead or allow the fumes to dissipate beforeradioactive metals in the glaze (CHPS, 2001). installation would be one way to address theThe tiles are laid in a mortar bed that problem. This, however, would be a time-secures them to the floor after drying. Grout consuming activity since VCTs are packagedis a porous mixture that runs between the in stacks; the tiles would have to beindividual tiles and should be sealed for individually laid out prior to arriving at theresistance to water and staining. construction site.All of these installation materials--mortars, Cork is a viable alternative to vinyl thatgrouts and grout sealers--can be a source of provides some cushioning underfoot. Thistoxic chemicals. Specify water-based/acrylic material, harvested from trees, is pressedand low-VOC mortars and sealers. The into tiles that may be finished and stainedgrout should be free of harmful additives, like wood surfaces. Cork floor tiles are moldsuch as fungicides. resistant, thermal insulators and sound absorbent. A water-based adhesive canTerrazzo is a polished surface made of rock secure the tiles to the subfloor, and a linseed-chips, such as granite or marble, which are based sealer will strengthen the cork andincorporated into a cement or epoxy mixture. provide water resistance. Once they areFor a long-lasting surface for high-traffic sealed, cork tiles require vacuuming or dampareas, cement-based terrazzo is an excellent mopping for maintenance.choice. The epoxy terrazzo, however, shouldbe avoided since it contains several toxic Linoleum, made from flaxseed oil, woodchemicals. Terrazzo should be coated with a powder and jute, contains no petrochemicalswater-based sealer (CHPS, 2001). or plasticizers. Available in sheet or tile form, linoleum is naturally antimicrobial andThe California High Performance Schools’ antistatic and strengthens with age. TheBest Practices Manual, Volume II provides a average lifespan of a properly installed, well-good overview of various flooring materials maintained linoleum floor is 30-40 years.(CPHS, 2001). Linoleum requires regular upkeep, including vacuuming and wet mopping, but not as much as vinyl composition tile (Wilson, 1999). While linoleum does have a characteristic odor, this can be masked with a water-based sealer. 17
  21. 21. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign Paints/Surface Coverings drawer fronts, and furniture tops. Plywood (sealers, caulking) used to be the primary choice for interior wood subflooring, walls and roofing, but These materials are divided into solvent most builders today are using MDF and (oil) or latex (water) based. Latex products particleboard due to lower costs. These are considered less hazardous only because materials, however, pose a greater risk they contain smaller amounts of harsh than plywood. MDF and particleboard are ingredients. Petroleum-based (oil/alkyl) made from very small pieces of wood, paints can contain up to 60% VOCs while requiring more glue to form a solid sheet. water-based paints will have up to 10% VOCs (Bower, 1993). Water-based paints, These formaldehyde-containing wood however, often contain biocides (essentially products are made with one of two types of pesticides) added as preservatives to ward glue: a mixture of formaldehyde with urea off mold and mildew. Low-biocide (95% free or a mixture of formaldehyde with phenol. of preservatives and fungicides) and VOC- The urea formulation releases formalde- free paints are available. hyde when exposed to heat and humidity and thus generally releases substantially These additives, including biocides, may more formaldehyde than the phenol mix- cause adverse health effects. It can be ture, which forms a stronger bond with the difficult to uncover the identity of these formaldehyde (EWG, 1999). Most of the ingredients because information is often particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard sold considered proprietary. Green Seal, an in the U.S. use a glue mixture of formalde- independent, nonprofit, standard-setting hyde and urea (CEH, 2002). organization has evaluated coatings for VOC emissions, heavy metals and 21 toxic The air in portable classrooms, which have compounds and identified healthier options formaldehyde-containing wood in the (Green Seal, 1993). Oil-based products flooring, wall paneling and ceiling, is prone derived from natural plant oils, such as to contain high levels of formaldehyde. linseed, are generally better and usually These tight structures usually have few free of other harmful additives (Baker- windows and poor ventilation systems to Laporte, 2001). Be aware that some dissipate the offgassing fumes (Ross, 1999). products may be less durable, requiring See the discussion of portable classrooms in more coats or frequent applications, which Chapter VI. can undermine “environmentally friendly” claims. Oil-based paints have generally There are healthier alternatives to using been regarded as longer lasting, but latex formaldehyde–containing wood products. paints today often have comparable Formaldehyde-free particle and fiberboard durability. is available, although it is more expensive (EWG, 1999). One alternative product is Medex and Medite II made by SierraPine. Interior Wood This product uses a polyurea resin matrix adhesive rather than urea or phenol Particleboard, plywood, and medium density formaldehyde. According to the fiberboard (MDF), are formed by pressing manufacturer, “There is almost no small pieces or sheets of wood together with formaldehyde out-gassing…” and the a formaldehyde-based glue. MDF and formaldehyde that is in the product is particleboard are used for flooring, roofing, limited to natural formaldehydes that are walls, cabinetry casing, shelving and doors, contained in the wood prior to manufacture (EBN, 1992).18
  22. 22. Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABC’s of Healthy SchoolsOther alternatives include wheat straw Building an Energy Efficient andboard and salvaged wood. Wheat straw Healthy Schoolparticleboards are made using wheat fibersin place of wood fibers. One product, made Somerville, Massachusetts—When the Somerville schoolby Natural Fiber Boards, mixes chopped district began planning for a citywide early educationwheat straw with a non-formaldehyde center, Mayor Dorothy Kelly-Gay challenged the city’s(MDI) resin and presses the mixture into project manager, Mike Foley and HMFM architect Dougpanels (EBN, 1995). A Green Seal report Sacra to design an energy efficient school that wouldon wallboard, fiberboard, and flooring reduce costs, improve learning conditions, and enhanceevaluates this and other alternatives to the health of children and staff. The city married thisformaldehyde–containing wood products project with a renovation of a public park in a dense urban(Green Seal, 1996). neighborhood.If a board with formaldehyde must be used, Under a state mandate to replace all recreational spaceit should be coated with at least 3 coats of encroached upon by the building, the city bought 12 lotssealant to reduce offgassing. Some adjacent to the site. Asbestos was abated, houses werehospitals and libraries have used demolished, and PCB-contaminated soil was removed.formaldehyde–free particleboard, a Although lead levels in the existing topsoil were underprecaution that makes obvious good sense the allowable levels set by the Department offor schools as well (EWG, 1999). Environmental Protection, the soil was replaced as part of the mayor’s “best environment for our children” position.Exterior Wood The city renovated the park to provide soccer fields, a basketball court, community gardens, and playgroundsThe most common wood preservative used without arsenic or chromium wood the U.S. is chromated copper arsenate(CCA). As discussed in Chapter III, CCA- The designers included a number of features to ensuretreated wood is found everywhere wood is good indoor air quality. Continuous under-slab insulationused outdoors: playgrounds, picnic tables, and a thermally improved exterior envelope will reducefences, decks, and foundations. Arsenic opportunities for condensation, which leads to moldleaches out of the CCA-treated wood where growth. A continuous air barrier is provided throughoutit can be absorbed or ingested by children. the building’s shell that eliminates uncontrolled air leakage. Fiberglass acoustic ceiling tiles will prevent moldHealthier options to CCA-treated wood growth, as well as improve the sound absorption by 80%.exist. The most common alternative is Materials with minimal offgassing, including low-VOCalkaline copper quat (ACQ) which is a paints and adhesives, were used.mixture of copper and didecyl dimethylammonium chloride (EWG, 2001). Other To reduce energy and maintenance costs, the design teamoptions include copper boron azole (CBA) modeled many energy conservation measures to createand copper citrate (CC). Research studies a truly high performance facility. These improvementsindicate that the toxicity of ACQ is are projected to reduce the energy use by 35% comparedrelatively low compared to CCA (Solo- to a facility that just meets code. The building will saveGabrielle, 2000), though recent tests the city $53,000 per year in energy costs and has alreadyindicate that copper does leach out of ACQ, garnered utility rebates over $100,000. It will also reduceas well as CBA and CC, at much higher greenhouse gas production by 278 tons annually. Inlevels than from CCA. This presents a addition, a solar-panelled roof, funded through a grantproblem because copper is considered to be from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, will generate clean electricity. 19
  23. 23. Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign a “potent aquatic biocide” that is harmful Window frames also play a role in energy to marine life. Despite these findings, efficiency and are available in wood/wood- researchers feel that the risks are much clad, metal, composite, vinyl, and fiberglass. greater for CCA, especially where The section on PVC in Chapter III explains humans are concerned (Ban CCA, 2002). why vinyl should be avoided. While fiberglass frames filled with insulation offer If your school grounds have CCA-treated the best thermal performance, metal frames wood, it should be removed, along with are superior when health concerns are any contaminated soil. As a last resort, in weighed. case removal will be delayed or disputed, a sealer should be applied to the wood at Metal frames, either steel or aluminum, least once per year to prevent the arsenic function best with thermal breaks that from leaching out. A sealer, however, prevent outdoor temperatures from affecting does not guarantee a safe surface, and the indoor air. Wood frames are an option, sanding and scraping the wood to prepare though they are sometimes treated with it for the sealant can release high doses of chemicals to resist moisture and rot. the preservative into the surrounding area (US CPSC, 2002). For more resources on windows, the Efficient Windows Collaborative offers brief explanations of the varieties of glass, frames Windows and other technologies (EWC, 2002). Windows affect more than the thermal and lighting conditions in a school; they also play an important role in the health of teachers and students in the classrooms. Depending upon the placement of the windows and the materials that go into them, heat gain or loss and glare can be minimized. High-quality, triple-glazed windows are recommended for thermal and moisture control and to promote energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. “Low-e” (low emissivity) glazing is a metallic coating applied to glass that reduces the transmission of heat between indoors and outdoors, while allowing high or low amounts of solar light to get through. Windows that open and close allow greater ventilation and can reduce HVAC costs.20
  24. 24. Chapter V THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Ventilation Problems Plague The HVAC system has a major impact on New Schools Too indoor air quality. The HVAC system can transport pollutants throughout a school Girard, Ohio—The large, new Girard Intermediate building, and it can exacerbate a problem School has been plagued with fungi and mold by distributing contamination from one since it opened in the fall of 2000—the result of part of the school to another. When dirty or problems with the school’s construction. (For poorly designed, it can introduce additional example, the ductwork and insulation were pollutants into the school environment. exposed to moisture before being installed.) Chris Notareschi’s fifth grade science students became The HVAC system helps the air to circulate so sick that she persuaded her colleagues, whose between classrooms, hallways and offices students were similarly affected, to teach their and to exchange with outside air through classes outside to avoid the stench, but the windows, vents, ductwork and fans. superintendent quickly forced them back indoors. Separately-vented fans should be designed to remove air from specific areas, such as After significant pressure from the newly formed custodians’ closets, locker rooms, and Girard Concerned Parent’s Group, extensive science labs, and send it outside. The air testing was done in the building, revealing that handling system relies on fans and there were high levels of fungi in the carpeting, ductwork to continuously circulate indoor airborne particulates, VOCs, pathogenic bacteria, air and replace a given volume of it with and high levels of carbon dioxide. The group filtered and conditioned outdoor air. pushed for removing the carpet and replacing it with tile and replacing the fiberglass-insulated The HVAC system also regulates ductwork, which the Girard Board of Health has temperature and humidity levels. The said should not be used in hospitals and schools. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating The school may finally reopen in September 2002 and Air Conditioning Engineers has after 16 months of renovation work that cost a created standards for acceptable ranges of half million dollars. temperature and humidity levels within a building depending upon the season The group is also working on removing the Girard (AHSRAE, 1992). In addition to bringing Board of Education, which withheld information discomfort, excessive humidity encourages on the problems at the school for six months, the growth of mold and mildew, while very including information on student illnesses. After low humidity levels help disperse mold the group collected over 2,000 signatures spores (seed-like bodies that attach to supporting the board’s removal, a state court surfaces and mature into mold). Very low ordered that the board be dismissed. The case humidity also causes eye, nose, and throat has gone to the Ohio Supreme Court, which will irritation. decide whether the lower court has the authority to remove the board. 21