Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Schools and freeways

Experts in California are warning the state about the potential health consequences of building freeways near schools.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

LOS ANGELES—Health experts are warning that school campuses being built near freeways could put students at risk of asthma and other problems caused by road pollutants.

Five school buildings are under construction within 500 feet of freeways in different parts of the city, with two more campuses near highways in the planning stages, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The schools being built were approved after planners incorporated air filtration systems to strip out road toxins in order to obey a 2003 state law that otherwise bans school construction near freeways.

But some health experts said filters can not remove ultra-fine particles, which studies have linked to asthma and bronchitis.

"Ultra-fine particle numbers are highest on and around freeways and in experimental studies appear to have much higher levels of the damaging chemicals that are found to have health effects," said Andre Nel, nanomedicine chief at University of California, Los Angeles' medical school.

Here in Wisconsin, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission recommended major expansions of freeways in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties that are near dozens of schools (in Milwaukee alone!). SEWRPC, in its study, forgot to mention potential health impacts on children attending schools near bigger freeways. Oopsie! Wonder if that had anything to do with SEWRPC having a major roadbuilder as a consultant on the study and a roadbuilding lobbyist as a member of the study's advisory committee?

And do we need those bigger freeways? Well, as Steve Filmanowicz so nicely pointed out, no.

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