Raise Awareness of Outdoor Air Risks

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We’re surrounded by air, but we can’t always see when it’s dirty. The air pollutants and toxins that make the air dirty can cause adverse health effects. Protect children from air pollution, especially those with asthma, with the EPA’s School Flag Program and the no idling campaign.

Schools can reduce student’s exposure to poor quality air by alerting students, teachers, and coaches if the the quality of air around the school is unhealthy. Schools raise a flag each day (green, yellow, orange, red, or purple) and the flag color tells the school how clean the air is for that day. When the air quality is unhealthy, program guidance helps teachers and coaches alter outdoor activities to protect student health.

Schools can also reduce the amount of pollution and air toxins being produced at the school by implementing the no idling campaign. Schools raise awareness of the potential health risks that are produced with unnecessary idling and ask all drivers (parents, delivery truck drivers, school bus drivers and staff) to sign a pledge to reduce their idling time.

Measure your impact

Assess school-wide participation in following the guidance for decreasing the exposure to poor quality air and reducing the amount of air toxins produced by idling cars. If possible, measure the decrease in absences related to respiratory illness.

Get started

• Work with front office staff, teachers, or coaches to start these programs for your school. You can direct them to the EPA’s instructional website for the flag program [www.airnow.gov/schoolflag] and the I Turn it Off website for great resources to begin an anti-idling campaign [http://iturnitoff.com/school.html#/the-issue]

• Everything you need for the Flag Program is on the EPA’s website, including a fact sheet, activity guidelines, press release template, and coordinator’s handbook. Follow the four steps of the School Flag Program:

1. Purchase the flags for use by your school

2. Educate the school and the community about what the flags mean

3. Check local air quality conditions on the AirNow web site, and then fly the appropriate flag each day

4. Take action when the air quality is unhealthy

• Start a no idling campaign by raising awareness. Post flyers around the school where drivers can easily see and send home brochures for parents and staff to learn about the adverse health effects to poor air quality and pollutants produced by car idling.

• Have each school driver (delivery truck drivers, bus drivers, staff and parents) sign a pledge to turn off their car after 10 seconds of idling.

• Get students involved by producing “tickets” for cars sitting in idle for longer than 10 seconds and teaching them the environmental and health effects of idling.

• Connect student learning with sustainability action. Learning Lab offers high-quality classroom content — over 450 lessons — for teachers from kindergarten to high school. In the lesson "Air Quality Index," students reflect upon how their actions (even in a community with consistently good air quality) can have an impact on the entire atmosphere, and then they brainstorm things they can do personally and as a class to help alleviate air pollution. You can find more modules to educate students about protecting air quality by searching Learning Lab's catalog by theme, primary subject, grade or keyword.