2008-12-11 / Local & State

McConnellsburg Schools Among Worst In U.S. For Outside

Air Quality USA TODAY ranks schools No. 168
By Lindsay R. Mellott STAFF WRITER

Central Fulton School District's schools have been named some of the worst in the nation for having outside air with high levels of dangerous toxic chemicals. So says USA TODAY following an eight-month study of the impact of industrial pollution on air quality around schools.

According to USA TODAY, the three McConnellsburg schools and the Fulton County Area Vocational-Technical School rank in the first percentile, or number 168, out of the more than 125,000 schools across the country with the worst air.

The study's findings appeared in a special report, "The smokestack effect: Toxic air and America's schools," published Dec. 8 in USA TODAY and online at www.smokestack.usatoday.com.

USA TODAY used Meredith Hitchens Elementary School in Addyston, Ohio, as a gauge to rank air quality around the 127,800 public, private and parochial schools that were monitored as part of the paper's special report.

Hitchens was closed after air samples outside the school building were found to have high levels of chemicals coming from a plastics plant across the street. The levels were so high that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined the risk of getting cancer there was 50 times higher than the state considered acceptable.

A mathematical model developed by the federal EPA, called Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators, was used to identify schools in toxic hot spots. It estimates how toxic chemicals released by companies are dispersed arross the nation and in what quantities. The model used emmissions reports filed by 20,000 industrial sites in 2005.

With the help of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the school locations were then ranked based on the concentrations and health hazards of chemicals likely to be in the air outside.

The rankings, USA TODAY reports, show 435 of those schools with air more toxic than the air outside the Hitchens school. The McConnellsburg schools and vo-tech school are included in the 435 schools that ranked above Hitchens in 2005.

Of the 435 schools, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania had the highest numbers, however, the worst schools spanned the country from coast-to-coast, in 170 cities across 34 states.

USA TODAY reports that the chemicals most responsible for the toxicity outside the Mc- Connellsburg schools are diisocyanates, 89% of overall toxicity; manganese and manganese compounds, 6% of overall toxicity; nickel and nickel compounds; 3% of overall toxicity; chromium and chromium compounds, 1% of overall toxicity; and trimethylbenzene, 1,2,4-0% of overall toxicity.

The polluters listed in the report as most responsible for toxics outside the schools: JLG Industries Inc.; U.S. Army Letterkenny Army Depot; Kennametal Inc., Bedford, Pa.; and Redland Brick Inc. Cushwa plant, Williamsport, Md.

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