Advocates for school environmental health tackle turf fields, indoor air quality & more

The Environmental Health and Asthma Subcommittee (EHAS) of the Arlington Public Schools School Health Advisory Board is taking on several issues for 2017-18 and is seeking new members to join the committee and attend its December 6 meeting.

Last spring, we reported on the Clean Air Awareness Month event organized by EHAS and the Clean Air Challenge APS students were invited to participate. Click here for our recap of this successful community event.

Efforts to address clean air and other issues in Arlington are ongoing. EHAS members have applied for a grant to do a screening of the documentary film Idle Threat in 2018-19 and are continuing to brainstorm ways to raise awareness about idling and to reduce children’s exposure to exhaust fumes. Vehicle idling is one of the topics of focus for this year’s EHAS.

The second area of focus for EHAS this year is the issue of turf fields. The committee is beginning to look into the health and safety of these fields and is interested in undertaking a survey of county fields to get an inventory of what they were made with and how long they are expected to last.

A third area of exploration is indoor air quality. As we move into colder months, children may spend more time indoors where they may be exposed to chemicals and irritants. The group wants to raise awareness about the health impact of air fresheners and other perfumed products, which are not allowed in Arlington Public Schools but are known to be in use. Indoor air quality issues that may also be addressed include concerns about mold, proper cleaning and use of HVAC systems and the safety of old and new trailers/relocatables.

Finally, related to issues of indoor air quality is the connection between asthma and absenteeism. Some 9.5% of APS students have asthma. Rate rose 69% over three years between 2009- 10 and 2013-14, a time period when school population increase was just 20%. See. p. 18 of the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families Report Card. A pilot program analyzing data from one elementary school showed a significant increase in absenteeism among students identified as having asthma compared to students who did not have asthma. EHAS is interested in looking further into data at other APS schools.

Arlington parents and interested community members are invited to join EHAS. To learn more about the committee, visit apsshab.weebly.com/ehas.html

To RSVP for the December 6 meeting, go to bit.ly/EHAS-Dec6

Interested parties may also wish to join the APS Green and Healthy Facebook group.

Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life and the author of its Guide to Holistic Family Living in Metro DCJessica volunteers on issues related to wellness in public schools and was the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria Chapter of Holistic Moms Networkwriter working on her first novel, Jessica offers writing, editing, and consulting services.  Learn more at JessicaClaireHaney.com and in Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A. Follow Jessica on Facebook at MindfulHealthyLife, on @Twitter @MindfulHealthy and on Instagram at @mindfulhealthy. Jessica’s personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama, on Facebook at CrunchyChewyMama and on Twitter @CrunchyChewy.

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