EPA Anticipates Acrolein Levels Likely Elevated At Most Schools

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 announced today that the first set of results from recent air monitoring studies at three Southern California schools are now available and have been posted on the agency’s Web site. These schools were selected as part of the EPA’s national Schools Air Toxics Initiative. The initiative, which is monitoring 63 schools in 22 states, is designed to help EPA and the states learn whether long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health concerns for children and staff at the schools.
The three Southern California schools are: Felton Elementary School (Lennox); Santa Anita Christian Academy (El Monte); and Soto Street Elementary School (LA). EPA has been monitoring the air at these schools since early August for several air toxics, most of which are associated with mobile sources (cars, trucks, and airplanes). EPA has also been monitoring the air at Stevens Creek Elementary School (Cupertino) for hexavalent chromium, and has been releasing results for that location since early August. Data are posted at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/. Additional information on the schools is available at http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/schools-monitor/.
Outdoor air at each of the schools will be monitored for 60 days, and air quality monitors will take a minimum of 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use the information gathered in this initial stage of the initiative to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring where appropriate.
The first results available for the three Southern California schools show that levels of air toxics are below levels of short-term concern. EPA scientists warn against drawing conclusions at this point as the study is designed to determine whether long-term, not short-term, exposure poses health risks to school children and staff. Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for health concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants. EPA will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete.
While monitoring is not complete at most schools, including these three Southern California schools, EPA is providing early information about acrolein, a widespread pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.  Acrolein primarily enters the air when things burn.  There are many sources of acrolein, including fires; exhaust from cars, trucks, boats, planes, wood heating; and industrial boilers. Acrolein is also found in cigarette smoke and smoke from cooking animal fats. Preliminary results from the 40 schools that are monitoring for acrolein are similar to levels from air toxics monitors in other areas of the country.  EPA anticipates that long-term levels of acrolein are likely to be elevated at most of the schools.
EPA has been regulating the emissions of acrolein from industrial facilities and vehicles since 1990. The agency already has seen reductions in acrolein emissions and expects to see more reductions in the future as rules such as the mobile source air toxics and heavy duty highway vehicle rules are phased in.

EPA plans to continue monitoring for acrolein at various locations across the country. This information will help us as we look for other ways to reduce acrolein emissions.

More information on acrolein and the School Monitoring Initiative is available on EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/.

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