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January 12th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports: Toxic Schools

The best estimates are that one third of our public schools have air quality that can cause respiratory problems in children. Our kids spend about half of their waking day in school, but there are no air quality standards for classrooms in the United States.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been investigating schools as part of his series on Toxic America, and his investigation found schools that are literally making children sick.

Don’t miss ‘Toxic Schools’, one of three hard-hitting stories on CNN Presents, this Saturday at 8:00 pm ET, reairing at 11:00 pm ET and 2:00 am ET.


Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Toxic America
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Cornelia

    Hats off to whevoer wrote this up and posted it.

    January 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  2. Peter Miron-Conk

    On the subject of american board of radiology test, what is the difference between what is being done by doctors and the practice tests which are used to prepare for many divergent tests like SAT, REAL ESTATE EXAMS, NURSING BOARD EXAMS, etc.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  3. John G

    How could anyone NOT appreciate this report for exposing the horrible conditions existing in a couple of buildings in NYC public schools –? A big disconnect happens, however, when NEA and union spokespeople end the show by attributing these problems to a lack of money. Wow. How ironic, considering that it is our federally-impeded, bloated public school model and its uber union-inflated costs that are most to blame for the situation. A surprising p.o.v. considering it is CNN reporting? Of course not. It's par for the course with their misguided philosophy! More money is not needed. Turning more government functions over to private solutions is a better starting point if the goal is truly to fix this problem. I'll look forward to a future CNN Presents that starts with a clean slate instead of the same old "more money" approach to everything that is so prevalent among those who claim to care about the future of this country. We can't tax and spend our way out of poor schools in New York or the impending collapse of government at all levels. We simply can't afford to keep thinking like this.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  4. Amanda

    Dr. Gupta,

    Thank you for shining a light on this issue. Our daughter became sick at her school in Westport, CT shortly after transferring there in second grade. We had no idea what was making her sick until we learned that many other children and teachers at the school were also sick. Through FOIA requests we learned that teachers and students had been complaining of illness at her school for 20 years. My daughter is in a private school now and her health has drastically improved. It is incredible to me how many children and teachers were impacted and how hard the school district fought against testing and remediation. To date, the school district has refused to transfer any children who become sick at the school to another public school...as a result every day on our way to school we pick up another child who was sick at the school and drive past 2 more families whose children were sick at the school as they pull out of their driveways to take their children to private schools. The long-term impact on the children and the families is staggering. Hopefully your report will shine a light on IAQ problems in schools and spur change. Thank you again for your interest in this issue.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  5. Claire Barnett

    Kudos to CNN and Dr Sanjay Gupta for tough reporting on a tougher issue. Our estimate of children at elevated risk of extra health and learning problems DUE SOLELY to school environmental conditions is 60% nationwide, or about 32 million kids. It is "America's largest unaddressed public health issue for children" according to former CDC officials. Unlike the US, even Guam health officials visit schools and write up environmental conditions.

    January 16, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  6. Linda Delp

    I am glad CNN did a show on the dangers our schools are facing with water damage/indoor mold and other toxic issues. I know quite a few teachers that lost their health doing the work they loved teaching in schools that made them sick.

    I have written about this issue to our leaders for over 12 years when I became ill in a home with water damage/indoor mold. At the time I had never heard of this problem. I started educating myself and met people all over the world that suffer from this illness caused by dangerous molds, bacteria, etc.

    CNN did a good job explaining the fear parents, teachers, and our children face when they are not getting properly informed how serious this can be especially with so many that have asthma, etc. these days. I hope this show will finally help teachers get the help they need when faced with losing their jobs, and perhaps there will finally be funding and knowledge how to handles these issues

    . Our leaders have looked the other way when so many have written and called for many years trying to inform them how sick one can get when living or working in such conditions.

    I look forward to Anderson Cooper doing his show on "Is Your House Killing You" in the near future. Thank you CNN for finally revealing the truth. Linda Delp

    January 16, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  7. Jon

    I go to Huron High in Ann Arbor Michigan. In one wing of my school there a smell of natural gas sometimes. Teachers and students have complained many times, but the smell is still there sometimes. My mom works at U of M, and in the Modern Language Building there have been several teachers who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past few years. Many have attributed this to the building being old and being built with chemicals now known to be dangerous. There is little air flow in the building, so the air probably becomes concentrated with any toxins that are present.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  8. JoAnn Duncan

    I thought the segment on toxic schools was good but did not go far enough to explain how deffered maintenance and inadequate funding for facilities to fix moisture incursion from roofs, plumbing issues, poor drainage, etc leads to potential mold growth and IAQ problems in schools. Public Schools need more funding for these repairs and for proper mold remediation done under containment. Facilities' budgets cannot continually be the item in the budget to get cut. They also need money for proper HVAC preventative maintenance and regular filter changes with good qualtiy filters and upgrades to the HVAC systems in a large percentage of schools. Schools spend money on supplies and equipment but often do not address these underlying IAQ issues. "If you can't breathe nothing else matters". You can have the best equipment, books, computers, etc but if you feel sick and can't concentrate or breathe well then teachers can't teach and students can't learn. They also never talked about EPA's Tools for Schools program and how every school in the country should use this or something like it and have an IAQ management plan with good communication, monitoring and the ability to see issues through to completion. Yours,JoAnn

    January 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  9. Janet Cowling

    The same thing is happening in many government buildings. The State of Florida refuses to believe that State office buildings have problems with mold and other toxins. I was forced to retire in order to protect my health and at one point was told they had cleaned up the mold and all they now had in the building was mildew. Can you imagine someone so dense that they don't know that is the same thing? I had two clients who wound up in the hospital after coming to see me in my office and still the state thought there was no problem. Also, when our daughter was in the fourth grade she was failing school because she missed so much time due to mold in the building. We had to transfer her to a private school because the school district would not allow any children to transfer from her school to another public school because they said there was nothing wrong with the building and they thought people were making things up to get their children out of that school. The weird thing was it was one of the best schools they had and most people wanted to send their children there. Things are not going to get any better until we all decide health and safety are more important than saving money. Just think if we repaired or replaced all of the unhealthy buildings in this country that would create a lot of jobs. The people getting these jobs would pay taxes and we would have more money to fix more buildings, roads, bridges, sewer systems, etc. We need to fix all of this stuff before it is too late. Remember the bridge that fell and they managed to put in a new bridge within a year. However, in this country we usually react to tragedy instead of planning to prevent it.

    January 15, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  10. vicky

    Not surprised to hear such lack of care. While employed by the federal government, I worked in a condemned building for
    6 years.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Luther Beverly

      I know the School Board don't care what happen I know they put motor oil on the floor of the school that I attended and that was toxic

      January 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  11. Adrienne

    Thank you for exposing the health and safety conditions in America's schools. One correction: New Jersey has an indoor air quality standard.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm |