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April 2013

Do You Send Your Child to a Toxic School?

Linoleum, shown here, is a healthier and more durable alternative to vinyl flooring.
The good news is that the City is spending $11 billion to renovate and build new schools. The bad news is it is still installing toxic vinyl flooring and using other dangerous building materials. Young children are most vulnerable to the chemicals in vinyl, which are linked to learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, diabetes, and asthma—the number one reason children miss school.

Safer materials are available (such as good old linoleum made from natural linseed oil), but stronger green building policies are needed to ensure that they are used.

Since 2001, The Trust has supported the work of the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice to limit children’s exposure to toxic chemicals in schools and to successfully convince retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Toys “R” Us to phase out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other toxic chemicals in toys, shower curtains, and other products.

“We are using these national victories to make an impact on the largest school system in the country,” says Mike Schade, campaign director at the Center. “School systems are lagging behind hospitals and other institutions in using healthier building products. If we can continue making progress with the New York City school system, we can set a model for the rest of the country.”

With a grant of $50,000 in 2011, the Center convinced the City to stop buying carpeting and electronic equipment made with PVC and reduce the amount of office and school supplies it purchased containing this harmful plastic. This year, a $60,000 grant will help the Center expand its coalition and pressure the City to commit to more rigorous green building standards. It will continue to demonstrate the dangers of PVC and phthalates on children’s health and academic performance, and produce case studies demonstrating the viability of safe, cost-competitive alternatives that reduce toxic indoor air pollution and toxic materials in the waste stream, and put parents at ease.

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