Working, living or going to school next to traffic-clogged freeways increases the risk of asthma so why are Los Angeles schools still being built next to major thoroughfares?
During a recent UCLA Center for Health Policy Research conference on air pollution, participants learned that although a state law prohibits schools being built within 500 feet of a freeway, there are exceptions to the rule.
Kim Uyeda, a pediatrician and director of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Student Health Services and Asthma Program, addressed this issue during the Center’s recent conference “Paying the Price with Our Health: A Community Strategy Conference on Clean Air and Better Health in Boyle Heights and Long Beach.”
School districts can request an exception from the law, particularly if the district can’t find land to build a school elsewhere or can outline the benefits of having a school for neighborhood children versus having to bus them across town. Districts must also detail how they’ll improve the indoor air quality and create barriers to sound pollution.
The upshot? There are 90 schools out of 1,098 in the district that sit within 500 feet of a freeway. [See a map of all LAUSD schools near freeways.]
“There’s a lot of factors that go into the reasons why a district can build a school next to a freeway like this,” Uyeda said. “It took a lot of mitigation − meaning we tried to work on the (air) filters, the sound pollution and other things for Helen Bernstein.”
About ten percent of LAUSD’s 650,000 students suffer from asthma. LAUSD loses roughly $6 million a day as a result of students who stay home sick due to their asthma.
The Center’s Health DATA Program organized the conference, which is part of Turning Data into Action, a project funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The project works closely with community-based organizations, local health departments, air quality management agencies and other entities to help enable residents to reduce the impact of air pollution in their neighborhoods.