COMMENTARY FROM THE FARM MOM: It came as no surprise to those of us at The Farm to see the following article posted in Thursday's USA TODAY. This past summer, I participated in a study done by Dr. Rosemary Bowler from California that was an attempt to identify what the physical effects living in such a toxic environment might be. The results are not yet in. Please read further.
(Source: USA TODAY - http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/2010-01-21-toxic-schools_N.htm)
By Blake Morrison and Brad Heath, USA TODAY
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pledged Thursday to "use all the tools at our disposal" to reduce high levels of a toxic chemical that continues to permeate the air outside an elementary school in Marietta, Ohio.
The chemical, manganese, can affect children in much the same way as lead. Government scientists have concluded that long-term exposure can cause mental disabilities and emotional problems.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Toxic Air and America's Schools
The EPA plans to release data today that show high levels of manganese outside a cluster of schools in and near Marietta. One air sample — taken Oct. 22, 2009, outside Warren Elementary — shows manganese levels that were 23 times above what the EPA considers safe for long-term exposure.
"That is pretty remarkable," said Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a Virginia-based advocacy group that focuses on children and schools.Two other schools, including Neale Elementary in Vienna, W.Va., just across the Ohio River from Marietta, also appear affected. One reading at Neale was five times higher than what is considered safe for long-term exposure.
Breathing high levels of manganese for extended periods can cause "irreversible damage," Lester said. He worried that the readings might represent "just the tip of the iceberg. How many other chemicals are these kids exposed to?" he asked. "It's not just manganese alone that you worry about. It's the combined effect of all these chemicals on the central nervous system.
"EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency plans to investigate the source of the manganese in Marietta. According to data collected by the EPA, several companies in Marietta reported releasing manganese into the air in 2008, the most recent year for which complete records were available. One, Eramet Marietta, reported releasing 240,000 pounds of manganese into the air that year. The company could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Marietta has been the subject of air quality studies since 2000. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one of its studies had found elevated levels of manganese and other toxic chemicals in the air at several locations.
The EPA renewed its interest in the area last year, when it launched a $2.25 million program to monitor the air outside 63 schools in 22 states. It included among the 63 schools two in Marietta — Warren Elementary and the Ohio Valley Education Service Center.
The EPA's air monitoring program came in response to a USA TODAY investigation that identified hundreds of schools where chemicals appear to saturate the air. Gilfillan said the agency has finished testing the air outside 54 of the 63 schools and expects to issue reports on each school by this fall.
Other articles of interest:
Chemical found in air outside 15 schools (USATODAY.com in News)
EPA to review health risk from popular weed killer (USATODAY.com in News)
Farmers growing genetically engineereed corn break rules (USATODAY.com in Tech)
EPA wants to limit runoff of plane deicing chemicals (USATODAY.com in Travel)