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October 1 2019

Responding to Climate Change Means Investing in School Health: #ChildrenAtTheCenter

By Shanita Rasheed, Program Associate, Children’s Environmental Health Network

While there are several sources of carbon emissions that contribute to global temperature rise, the buildings sector accounts for 39% of annual US carbon emissions and is undergoing rapid growth at unprecedented rates. From construction and revitalization to how much energy is consumed on a daily basis, buildings are an important contributor to climate change. However, buildings are also vulnerable to climate change impacts. For instance, warmer temperatures can reduce the durability of building materials and affect indoor climate introducing a greater need for cooling. More frequent and intense rain events can lead to storm water overflow threatening the drinking water that enters buildings. More rain also means higher moisture levels indoors which can cause the formation of mold. Such environmental health hazards place people’s health and lives in jeopardy. Designing new and modifying existing buildings to withstand future climate conditions can increase their resiliency and improve health outcomes for our children and future generations.

More than half of school buildings across the country are in poor condition, raising safety and health concerns for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Millions of children are attending schools with environmental health hazards like lead paint, mold, asbestos and poor indoor air – all of which negatively affect development and learning. Overall states spend $46 billion a year less than they should for building and repairing K-12 schools which explains the current state of school health. Prioritizing investment at both the state and federal levels for retrofitting school buildings in response to climate change reduces the use of dirty fuels and electricity, thus improving outdoor and indoor air quality resulting in fewer respiratory diseases, allergies and asthma.

It is imperative that we collectively push for improved school building health – where children spend the majority of their day. Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day) provides a platform for all communities to advocate for clean air and water, safer food, toys and products, and healthy places to live, learn, and play. Join Children’s Environmental Health Network for a live Twitter Chat discussion on Thursday, October 10th at 12pm ET! This year’s theme is healthy learning and child care environments. Use the power of your voice and experience to advocate for more investment in school infrastructure, the enhancement of building codes and the adoption of environmental health standards in your school, city or state. Parents, teachers and students can also hold their elected officials accountable to improving building health by requesting and leveraging a CEH Day Proclamation or messaging their congressional leaders.

Children’s Environmental Health Network is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

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