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Results of Ongoing Testing Show Air Quality is Safe Near Schools in Beaver and Erie Counties in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Air quality sampling by the state Department of Environmental Protection at schools in Beaver and Erie counties has not detected unsafe levels of air pollutants or metals, Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today.

DEP's investigation was prompted by a December 2008 report in USA Today that indicated potentially toxic air around the schools.

DEP today released the results of extensive air quality monitoring at the Midland Elementary-Middle School in Beaver County, and additional monitoring at the Ridgefield Elementary and Iroquois Junior-Senior High Schools in Erie County. USA Today reported that its sampling at the Midland school had detected the presence of chromium and manganese. The newspaper also made predictions, using information reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about the likely presence of toxins produced at industries near the Ridgefield and Iroquois schools.

"Although our initial sampling at Midland did not indicate high levels of toxins, we continued testing for toxic metals and conducted additional sampling to determine the precise type and levels of chromium detected there," Hanger said. "Further testing showed that the levels of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, were even lower than we had initially estimated."

USA Today did not do any sampling at the Ridgefield or Iroquois schools, but estimated high levels of cobalt, manganese, chromium and nickel around the Ridgefield school, and high levels of manganese, chromium, nickel and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene around the Iroquois school.

Using federally accepted scientific protocol, DEP located air quality monitors directly on the school buildings.

"Our testing found the total excess lifetime cancer risk from exposure to pollutants at these schools is within the acceptable range identified by the Environmental Protection Agency," Hanger said. "We took action to verify the air quality because we understand parents' concerns about the health and safety of their children, and we are committed to reducing air pollution to cut the risk of disease and respiratory problems for both children and adults."

USA Today used the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicator, or RSEI, to rank each school relative to one another based upon the pollutants likely to be in the air outside the school. But RSEI is a screening tool developed by the EPA to be used for establishing priorities.

Pollutant concentrations measured through sampling are much more reliable than modeled concentrations.

The EPA generally considers an excess lifetime cancer risk in excess of one in 10,000 (or 10 in 100,000) to be unacceptable.

At each school where DEP conducted air toxics monitoring, the department calculated the excess lifetime cancer risk - that is, the risk over and above the general overall cancer risk of four in 10 - from exposure to the pollutants measured. The excess lifetime cancer risk for all toxic compounds measured was determined to be 0.12 in 10,000 at Midland, 0.82 in 10,000 at Ridgefield, and 0.68 in 10,000 at Iroquois.

The ambient air sampling also was used to calculate the non-cancer health risk associated with the air toxic compounds measured. All three schools had calculated hazard quotients less than 1, which is considered acceptable by the EPA. Detailed reports on DEP's sampling studies can be found on DEP's Web site at the following links: or

    Teresa Candori
    (717) 787-1323

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
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