It doesn’t seem like Michigan gets much positive coverage in the national press. Lately, we’ve seen coverage of the troubled auto industry, our state’s high unemployment rate, the shooting of an unarmed college student, and a teenager killed by police using Tasers.
Unfortunately, the latest mention–that a West Michigan school will be one of sixty-two monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–doesn’t help the state’s image.
In today’s edition of USA Today, the newspaper features teacher Terry Babbitt of Norton Shores’ (near Muskegon) Lincoln Park Elementary School. Lincoln Park Elementary was one of several hundred schools identified by USA Today in an investigation last year into air quality in the nation’s public schools. According to the investigation, students at the school might be exposed to high levels of chromium and other toxic chemicals. Babbitt says that he welcomes the investigation
The USA Today investigation prompted the program, which will begin in over the next three months:
“The series prompted the EPA to launch its most comprehensive study ever of the impact of pollution outside the schools. In most cases, the agency plans to install monitoring equipment on school grounds.”
According to an examination of the 62 schools chosen for monitoring, USA Today reports that 28 appear to have air more toxic than the air at Meredith Hitchens Elementary in Ohio. That school was closed after the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times above what the state considered acceptable.
As if general exposure to air pollution wasn’t enough reason to investigate and attempt to remedy the situation, USA Today points out that children are uniquely vulnerable to threats from toxic chemicals because their bodies are still developing and they breathe more air in proportion to their body weight than adults.