Thursday, March 8, 2012

EPA Seeks Comments on Environmental Health in Schools

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released for public comment the K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines for States, Tribes and Territories.

In December 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Subtitle E, Section 504 of EISA requires the EPA, in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and other relevant federal agencies, to develop voluntary guidelines to assist states in establishing and implementing environmental health programs in K-12 schools.

Exposure to environmental hazards in schools can negatively impact the health of students and school staff. Unhealthy school environments can affect attendance, concentration and performance. In carrying out this statutory mandate, EPA, with assistance from its federal partners and feedback from stakeholders, developed these draft voluntary State K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines. The guidelines are primarily intended to be used as a resource for the establishment of a state, tribal, or territorial K-12 school environmental health program.

Your feedback will help in the development of useful guidelines to states, tribes, and territories that will better support healthy school environments for our nation's children. We encourage you to review the draft guidelines and provide comments by April 13, 2012. Please visit the EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection School's website at to post your comments.

The EPA is also happy to announce the release of a Request for Applications (RFA) which will provide funding for implementation of the draft voluntary guidelines. Eligibility for funding under this competitive solicitation is limited to states, tribes and territories. Total funding available is expected to be $750,000 and applications for up to $150,000 will be accepted. The closing date for receipt of applications is April 10, 2012. For more information, including a copy of the RFA, go to:

Commentary:  Scene Shops, Costume Shops, and Paint / Chemical Storage Areas are not the only hazardous spaces in the theatre plants.  Hazards can be physical, electrical, and thermal, too, and may be affected by these guidelines.  Most importantly, the key directive in this document focus on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which is directly related to asbestos (think: Fire Curtains), (saw) dust, mold, mildew, poor ventilation (think: rotting drapes and carpets), and sanitation.  Old florescent lights may have ballasts with PCB's in them, too, so this may be an opportunity to get them upgraded to energy-efficient, color-correct LED lights.  Shops, clean-up areas, restrooms, orchestra pits, trap rooms / basements, and storage rooms all are susceptible to poor IAQ conditions, so making sure that your performing arts venues are included in environmental studies and corrective planning can help you to get your facilities up-to-date and keep your students healthy.

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