Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Schools near freeways: A time-bomb waiting to happen?

According to an article in the L.A. Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District is in the process of adding seven new schools to the more than 70 already near highways, despite a state law prohibiting it and evidence that road pollutants are harming children’s lungs.
The article "Schools still rise close to freeways", which appeared in the newspaper’s online version on September 24, quoted scientists from both UCLA and USC who have been studying the effects of freeway contaminants to the health and found that they are significant.
It added that children who reside near freeways are more likely to suffer from diminished lung function compared to those who don’t. These findings are further bolstered by the findings of a study by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which found an increased incidence of asthma and bronchitis among San Francisco Bay Area children who went to schools near major highways.
Under a 2003 state law, school districts are barred from building sites within 500 feet of a freeway, unless it can mitigate the pollution or that there are no other options.
Given these facts, one may question the policy behind the continued preference of areas near freeways as school sites despite the hazards. According to Los Angeles officials, their choices have become “more and more limited.”
How do authorities limit their choices in this case? This is really a choice between finding a more suitable place over compromising the health of our children.
Are we waiting for a child to actually get seriously hurt before we put a stop to this geographical malady? If this time-bomb explodes, trial lawyers will get a field day in holding those responsible liable to the would-be victims.