The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Department of Education have launched a national program to draw attention to dangerous chemicals in schools, and to help school officials get rid of them.
About 33,000 middle and high schools have laboratory and other chemicals that could cause accidents and injure students, according to the EPA.
The Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign, which started March 23, is intended to address the issue. Officials who visit the campaign Web site, epa.gov/sc3, will be able to access a Web-based toolkit and be connected with local chemical-management experts.
“We certainly don’t want to say that schools should be chemical-free,” said Janette Petersen, the associate division director for the EPA’s division of hazardous-waste minimization and management. However, she said, “there should be an ongoing chemical-maintenance program.”
The agency also recommends that one person in a school or a district be assigned the job of maintaining chemicals and making sure they’re handled and disposed of correctly.
As part of a separate program, the 196,000-student Philadelphia district became the first in the country to voluntarily sign up for a comprehensive environmental-health check of its school buildings under an agreement with the EPA.
The district will audit 62 of its schools for compliance with federal environmental regulations. In addition, all of the district’s facilities will be assessed for compliance with asbestos-abatement requirements. The agreement is part of a national initiative by the EPA to ensure that schools, colleges, and universities meet environmental regulations.
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2007 edition of Education Week