Update to Post – School district improved guidelines 11/2010, but not nearly enough protection for children: Newly revised School District regulation 960.1 allows healthy children to play outside at recess until particulate levels reach 176 micrograms/cubic meter. If this “guideline” is based on 24-hour particulate levels, it is much too high. If it is based on one-hour particulate levels, those measurements are not currently available to parents, nurses, principals, or even the Superintendent.
Listen to KUAC’s radio news story 12/14/2010 on the School District’s decision to revise the guidelines from 200 to 176 micrograms/cubic meter and the district’s challenge to ensure indoor air is clean.
960.1 was updated 11/2010, noted above. FNSB School District has regulations and guidelines for activities during unhealthy particulate levels, called Administrative Regulations 960.1 Guidelines for Student Activity in Adverse Conditions. These regulations are as follows:
A. Air Quality
1. The health and safety of students must be considered when particulate levels reach unhealthy levels due to smoke and forest fires, vehicle emissions, or volcanic eruptions. The school district shall rely upon the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) Air Quality Program standards to guide decision-making.
2. Guidelines for Activities in Adverse Air Quality Conditions
|Particulate Levels||Elementary Recess or Other Outdoor Activity||Athletic Practices||Athletic Competitions|
|a. 100-199 micrograms per cubic meter||Reduce prolonged or heavy exertion||Be aware of potential health dangers. Allow extra recovery time for athletes. Have extra water available. Have cell phone available.||Be aware of potential health dangers. Allow extra recovery time for athletes. Have extra water available. Have cell phone available.|
|b. 200-300 micrograms per cubic meter||Move indoors.||Move all practices indoors. Student athletes with asthma or other respiratory disorders should be informed and have medications available.||Allowed outdoors with extra precautions. Student athletes with asthma or other respiratory disorders should be informed and have medications available.|
|c. Above 300 micrograms per cubic meter||Cancel or move indoors.||Postpone or cancel. Postpone||Postpone or cancel.|
3. The district will consult with FNSB Air Quality personnel and make decisions concerning competitions scheduled for Friday by 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night and by 9:00 p.m. on Thursday evening for competitions scheduled on the weekend.
4. Principals and activity coordinators will be notified via fax and email if the air quality warrants cancellation of recess, field trips, athletic practices or competitions, or other outdoor activities.
Please notice the particulate levels which trigger School District action: 100 to 199 micrograms/cubic meter of air. The FNSB Air Quality Index and especially Judging Particulate Levels in Your Area chart may be used to compare to the guidelines with recommendations for the various groups. It is not clear whether the school district guidelines chart refers to one hour PM 2.5 levels, 24-hour levels, or EPA’s Air Quality Index Values. (Convert PM 2.5 pollution concentration to AIQ values at AIRNow.) With the most lenient average (one hour particulate levels), 100 micrograms/cubic meter falls within the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category, which includes all children. If the 24-hour levels are used, 100 micrograms/cubic meter falls within the “Unhealthy” category.
Questions Parents and Grandparents Want Answered:
- Are these guidelines sufficient to protect children? Every healthy child is included in the “sensitive groups” category. Children with lung problems, such as asthma, or heart problems are at even greater risk from PM 2.5.
- According to the Air Quality Index chart, the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category starts at 35.5 micrograms/cubic meter of air. Why are children being let out to recess at higher levels?
- Recess and exercise are vital for child development and learning. What can be done to safeguard recess so children can exercise without risking permanent damage?
- According to Jim Conner, FNSB Air Quality Specialist, air quality at the schools “can be as bad inside as out.” Canceling outdoor recess in favor of indoor recess, if in smoke-filled gyms or halls, is not sufficient. What is being done to safeguard students & staff inside the school building?
- Would the School District conduct a feasibility study for installing HEPA filtration for schools where ambient levels of outdoor PM 2.5 pollution are in excess of 35.5 micrograms/cubic meter of air?
- The School District collects forms from students who require an inhaler to control their asthma. How many students at each school have submitted these forms and has this number grown over the past 4 years?
- Why are our children being allowed to be exposed to particulates at such high levels? Many studies show that children are more susceptible to elevated particulate levels because they breathe more air per body weight than adults, they tend to be active, they mouth-breathe when active (i.e., crying), and their lungs are still developing. An additional concern is that their immune and brain defenses are not fully formed. Dr. Lori Verbrugge, Alaska Division of Public Health, cited over 20 separate studies that consistently showed a 6–17% increase in relative mortality with each 10 μg/m3 of long-term particulate exposure. Dr. Verbrugge said the available data showed there is increased mortality with short-term exposure to PM 2.5 concentrations that are less than 20 μg/m3, which is considerably below the “health-based” 24-hour standard of 35 μg/m3. [Don’t miss the full summary of the FNSB symposium presentation by Dr. Verbrugge, 2009]