Citing the high prevalence of toxic contaminants in U.S. schools, especially in low income areas, a trio of Democrats introduced a bill on August 5th that would authorize $52 billion in funding over the next decade to remove dangerous substances from education buildings nationwide.

The Get Toxic Substances Out of Schools Act of 2021 (pdf)—introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)—would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to authorize grants for the remediation of contaminants in schools, where approximately 53 million children and 6 million adults spend a significant portion of their days, according to (pdf) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA says that about half these students and staff may be exposed to polluted indoor air, lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, molds, and other toxins in more than 120,000 public and private school buildings. Other contaminants mentioned in the new bill include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The EPA notes: "Many of these buildings are old, in poor condition, and may contain environmental conditions that pose increased risks to the health of children and staff. Reducing exposures to environmental hazards in schools can help children's health. Healthier school environments enable children to learn and produce more in the classroom which can improve their performance and achievements later in life."

In a statement, Markey—who is chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety—said that "there is no excuse for the presence of toxic substances at schools, and it is long past time we provided the resources to clean them up. Children need clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and a healthy environment to learn. They need schools free of environmental hazards, and a real chance to thrive."


Get Toxic Substances Out of Schools Act of 2021 (pdf)

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

Sensible Steps To Healthier School Environments (pdf)

Markey, Levin, and Bowman Unveil Bill to 'Get Toxic Substances Out of Schools' (Common Dreams, 8-5-21)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman Unveils Green New Deal for Public Schools (Jamaal Bowman)