Toxic Air near Schools


Loudon Elementary School

Acrolein 10 times higher than national average

By: Pat Hunter

February 28, 2009

Did you read the USA TODAY article about Smokestack Air, toxic air and American schools? There are serious health consequence for children who are exposed to toxic chemicals. USA TODAY used an EPA model to follow industrial pollution. They also mapped the location of schools and used estimates of emissions. The EPA maintains a Toxic Release Inventory emissions database, which is reported by certain industries, yearly.

USA TODAY developed toxicity information, which is displayed as a percentile. For example, Loudon Elementary School and Ft. Loudon Middle School ranked 9th percentile. If you see a school whose overall toxicity shows up in the ninth percentile, you'll know only 8% of the nation's schools had higher toxicity levels.

Vonore Elem. and Vonore Middle Schools were listed as 1st percentile in the national rank of potentially dirty air. A neighboring newspaper attempted to soothe those concerns by informing readers that one plant in question had no violations in the last 3-years and according to a TDEC spokesperson, emissions were on a steady decline during the last decade.

At the Jan. 19th, EPA Risk Assessment seminar, TDEC Air Pollution Control Deputy Director Quincy Styke mentioned the USA TODAY article by commenting that some of the factories may have over stated emissions. Loudon has at least 6 industries that self report emissions to the EPA.

Loudon County also has two ambient air monitors with a rich history of data and the emission samples are collected and tracked by TDEC. 

On Jan. 28, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 held a meeting to share preliminary information based on risk calculations of air monitor data and computer exposure modeling. The risk assessment is expected to follow within 3-5 months. The EPA also did some comparisons between the two monitors.

The Pope monitor located near the Blairbend Industrial Bark, found high levels of "Acrolein" but levels were even higher at the Ft. Loudon Middle School air monitor. There was speculation that the high readings could be caused by school bus idling but that theory was debunked after officials looked at weekend and summertime data. Acetaldehyde levels were higher at the Pope Monitor and slightly lower at the Ft. Loudon Middle School air monitor. Acetaldehyde has been classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Young children are often vulnerable to chemical exposure and school attendance is compulsory. Sick children do not do well in school and illness affects attendance. Loudon Elem. School and Ft. Loudon Middle School constitute a large student population combined but so far there has been no public discussion by the School Board or school administrators about this important issue. How can children's health and serious hazardous air emissions be ignored or forgotten?