Update: Hourly PM 2.5 monitoring reports from the Fairbanks North Star Borough for North Pole are now viewable online. Read the post: “New Hourly AQ Reports Show Santa in Smoke Trouble.”
Newly revised School District regulation 960.1 allows healthy children to play outside at recess until particulate levels reach 176 micrograms per cubic meter. This “guideline” appears to be based on one-hour particulate levels. However, one-hour levels are not currently available to parents, nurses, principals, or even the Superintendent.
The revised regulation lowers the guideline from 200 micrograms per cubic meter to 176. For the previous version and chart of the regulations, view Clean Air Fairbanks’ earlier post on School District Regs on Unhealthy Particulate Levels. Progress, true, but not nearly enough for our children.
The only PM 2.5 numbers available for principals and school nurses are 24-hour averages. They are the same numbers available to you: FNSB’s Air Quality Index. During episodes of air quality concern, this site is updated by the Borough once a day on weekdays only.
If principals wait to see 176 micrograms before cancelling outdoor recess or athletic activities based on the only numbers available, these 24-hour levels, children may be exercising vigorously until AQI concentrations reach VERY UNHEALTHY. This is especially dangerous if no special regard is taken to protect children with health conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, or heart problems.
View Judging Particulate Levels in Your Area to better understand the levels, categories, and cautionary statements.
Contact the School Board to request regulation 960.1 be revised again to:
- Use the 24-hour column, not the 1-hr column, as it is the only number available,
- Initiate action to protect healthy children at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS levels (35.5-55.4 µg) not waiting until UNHEALTHY (55.5-150.4 µg) or VERY UNHEALTHY (150.5-250.4 µg), and
- To protect health-compromised children, consider extra precautions at MODERATE levels (15.5-35.4 µg).
Contact your School District members & the Superintendent:
- Kristina Brophy – School Board President email@example.com
- Sharon McConnell – School Board VP firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sue Hull – School Board Treasurer email@example.com
- Sean Rice – School Board Clerk firstname.lastname@example.org
- Leslie Hajdukovich – School Board email@example.com
- Wendy Dominque – School Board firstname.lastname@example.org
- Silver Chord – School Board email@example.com
- Danielle Wilson – School Board Student Rep firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jessie Johnson – School Board Base Rep email@example.com
- Timothy A. Jones – School Board Post Rep firstname.lastname@example.org
- Superintendent Pete Lewis email@example.com
If you prefer, ask Sharon Tuttle, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, to forward your message to the School Board firstname.lastname@example.org 452-2000 x 401
School District regulations cannot advise waiting to cancel recess, athletic practice, or athletic competitions until levels are VERY UNHEALTHY. Healthy children are considered members of the “sensitive groups” category. To provide adequate protection for healthy children, precautions need to be taken at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS particulate levels, or lower. Children with health conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, or heart problems are considered “unusually sensitive” to PM 2.5 pollution and may need extra precautions even at MODERATE particulate levels.
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.
The FDNM covered the same decision, overlooking that 1-hour PM 2.5 levels are unavailable, “Fairbanks school district tightens air quality restrictions for recess, practices” 12/15/2010.
Many, many people do not understand the need to protect themselves from high particulate levels. Clean Air Fairbanks observed a team of young runners from UAF, wearing reflective vests for safety, yet exercising in unhealthy, smoke-choked air. Principals, school nurses, and coaches aren’t trained or prepared in any way to make informed decisions on how to best protect individuals under their responsibility from elevated PM 2.5. These are the individuals we’re counting on to protect our children.
When PM 2.5 levels are high, children are often kept in from recess because of the cold so indoor air may be the greater concern. During inside recess children typically run around inside the school building. Yet, we’ve seen no data to show indoor air is any cleaner than outside air on days with high PM 2.5. Typical ventilation systems exchange inside “dirty” air for “cleaner” outside air. During PM 2.5 pollution events, those ventilation systems draw particulates into the school bldg and spread it throughout halls, classrooms, and gyms, just as has happened in smoke-impacted homes across the borough.
Recess and outside athletic activities promote physical and social development and are linked to academic success. Clearly, air quality data relevant to each school would empower principals to make informed decisions for our children.
Yet, cost estimates have not been made available for 1) installing monitors near schools to collect 1-hour particulate levels, 2) updating reporting of Borough data so real-time reports are available to principals and the public, 3) conducting an indoor air sampling study at district schools during UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS particulate levels, or 4) if justified by the indoor air quality study or other data, installing indoor air filtration at about 30 district schools.
Controlling PM 2.5 pollution at its source is necessary for the future of our community and cost-effective. A handful of smoky OWBs and coal burners in one neighborhood may result in millions of dollars in additional health care expenses, absentee days from work or school, lower property values, indoor air filtration, etc. And that is for just one school. Our School District has 7,000 students under its care. Controlling PM 2.5 pollution is every resident and taxpayer’s concern and needs to be addressed at every level, from the individual on up.
When our children are in danger, the future of our community is at risk.