Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wisconsin should learn from Los Angeles

The entire world knows that exposure to heavy traffic can lead to some serious health problems, especially among children.

In the Wisconsin, the Department of Transportation pushes to put more freeway lanes next to schools to spew more poisons on more kids. In LA, the School Board voted to limit the district's ability to build schools near freeways, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After a string of public speakers supporting the measure and impassioned debate, the board approved a resolution calling for the school system to study airborne pollutants up to half a mile from a potential site, rather than the current quarter mile requirement. It also seeks air quality health-risk assessments for all schools, including charter schools, although officials said it is unclear whether they could force the independently run but publicly-funded schools to do so.

"Basically I'm trying to push the envelope as far as we can," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who co-wrote the resolution with board member Julie Korenstein.

Flores Aguilar took on the issue after The Times reported in September that the district continued to build schools close to freeways, despite a state law discouraging it and recent studies indicating that children living near them showed signs of increased respiratory harm. About 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students attend campuses within 500 feet of a freeway.

The board also gave the superintendent a month to produce a list of schools where children are at the highest risk from air pollution and, by late March, to come up with a plan to reduce that exposure.

The board action does not change state law, which allows schools within 500 feet of major roadways despite the risks if the board finds the pollution "unavoidable" and overrides it.

However, Flores Aguilar said her resolution fixes a glitch in state law that did not require school systems to consider the effect of ultra-fine particles -- which researchers now believe carry the most noxious pollutants. Those particles are too small to be filtered by heating and air-conditioning systems.

WisDOT needs to go to school in LA.

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