This piece was cross-posted at Non-Toxic Kids.
When we send our kids off to school, we expect them to be safe. We worry if they have enough lunch, if we remembered to turn in forms, if they have enough clothing on, and if they are learning, paying attention and following directions in class. We don’t usually worry that the air they breathe could be slowly poisoning them, causing serious developmental, behavioral and learning delays.
But that is what has been happening in at least one of Chicago’s neighborhood elementary schools. According to this article from the Chicago Tribune, federal and state officials are taking action to protect children from lead exposure in air pollution currently at unsafe levels.
In a legal complaint filed Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused H. Kramer and Co. of emitting illegal amounts of brain-damaging pollution detected between October and January at Perez Elementary School, 1241 W. 19th St. H. Kramer runs a smelter two blocks from the school.
At the same time, the Illinois EPA asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to take enforcement action against H. Kramer, which has been melting scrap metal into brass and bronze ingots since the 1920s and remains one of the biggest industrial sources of lead in the Chicago area.
The Chicago Tribune first reported early this month that average lead levels at Perez were at or above federal limits during three three-month periods in 2010. Lead pollution exceeded health standards during a fifth of the days monitored last year and, on one day in December, spiked to more than 10 times higher that the federal limit.”
Doctors and scientists widely acknowledge that there is no safe level of exposure to lead, and there is significant data that says even low level exposure to lead can have lasting and serious negative health effects, especially on developing fetuses and young children. These effects include learning disabilities, aggression and criminal behavior later in life.
All children deserve a good education, clean air, and safe schools. It is great to officials taking action on this to protect Chicago’s children. Not one more day should go by with these children being exposed to lead (in any amount) in their school.