Children at Nearly 8,000 U.S. Public Schools Breathe Highly Polluted Air

Roughly one in every 11 public schools in the U.S. sits within 500 feet of highways and other heavily trafficked roads, exposing 4.4 million students to high levels of toxic air pollution. The data is the result of a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Breathing air with high levels of particulate matter has been shown to stunt lung growth, trigger asthma, increase the risk of cancer, and damage learning capability in children. California banned the construction of new schools within 500 feet of busy roads in 2003, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has urged school districts to carefully consider air pollution risks since 2011. But according to reporting by CPI and Reveal, nearly one in five U.S. schools that opened in the 2014-2015 academic year were built in high-traffic areas.

“The expectation of every parent is that they’re sending their child to a safe environment,” George Thurston, a population-health professor at the New York University School of Medicine, told the Center for Public Integrity. “And with this kind of pollution, they’re not.”