Local nonprofits launch campaign, address lead, radon hazards in schools: 1,000 Hours a Year Project supports schools, early learning centers

Women For A Healthy Environment (WHE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) are teaming up, with funding from The Heinz Endowments, to launch the 1,000 Hours a Year Project.

The initiative will help schools, early learning centers, and after-school programs in Allegheny County and beyond address two known, but preventable, environmental hazards, lead and radon, to keep children healthy and safe in the places they grow and learn.

“The 1,000 Hours a Year Project will allow us to work together with schools and child care centers to help ensure educational buildings in our community are healthy and safe for our children, as well as the staff,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director, Women for a Healthy Environment. “Lead is a neurotoxin that significantly impacts growing brains and no amount of lead exposure is considered safe. It can be found in the water, paint, dust and soil in and around these buildings. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and we know staff are in these buildings for years, if not decades. We want to ensure increased attention, as well as resources, are provided to address these harmful environmental exposures.”

Women for a Healthy Environment recently surveyed school districts across southwestern PA. Of those that responded, approximately, 20% had tested for radon, 11% had tested for lead, and 35% had tested for lead in water. Child care centers and afterschool programs were not surveyed. Utilizing the $400,000 available to distribute to schools and early learning centers through the 1,000 Hours a Year Project, WHE and GBA aim to increase those numbers by 50%. The long-term goal is to ensure every school and early learning center tests for these two environmental hazards and then takes the necessary steps to remediate those risks.

While lead and radon are commonly found in schools and other educational buildings, any testing and remediation for these hazards is voluntary. The research is clear that both lead and radon can impact a child’s development, growth, and learning. As children spend roughly 1,000 hours a year in either school or child care centers, they could potentially be exposed to these environmental hazards for a majority of their day.

“If we want our children to thrive and succeed, we need their environments to be as safe and healthy as possible,” said Andrew Ellsworth, vice president of health and learning at Green Building Alliance. “We created the 1,000 Hours a Year Project to help schools and early learning centers take action.”

The 1,000 Hours a Year Project will provide mini-grants up to $7,500 to schools and child care centers to help them address the issues. Priority will be given to schools and early learning centers located in underserved communities. Additionally, the 1,000 Hours a Year technical team will offer training and assistance to help facility staff through the testing and remediation process. Staff will work with the schools and child care centers to ensure that proper steps are taken if testing reveals lead and radon are present in the building.

The initiative was announced at a press conference earlier today, where educators, parents, and experts spoke about the importance of this project, as well as their personal experiences with these environmental hazards.

“Parents at our school, including myself, want to make sure our kids and all students are in the healthiest environment to learn,” Kristi Wees, parent, Wexford Elementary School. “As parents, we need to voice our desires for healthy school environments. There are many resources, such as those available through WHE, to help ensure our schools are as safe as possible.”

Both WHE and GBA work to promote healthy schools. The 1,000 Hours a Year Project is an extension of the great work both organizations have already begun. The 1,000 Hours a Year Project is now offering technical assistance and accepting applications for mini-grants. For more information, visit www.1000hoursayear.org.

About 1,000 Hours a Year – Right now, schools and child care centers aren’t required to test for lead or radon. But the research is clear that these two hazards impact a child’s development, growth and learning. That’s why Women for Healthy Environment’s Healthy Schools PA and Green Building Alliance’s Green and Healthy Schools Academy developed the 1000 Hours a Year Project in an effort to help improve the environments where children learn to keep kids safe and healthy. The project is generously funded by The Heinz Endowments, and powered by local experts in healthy school environments.

Abby Mathieu
Blender, Inc.
304-281-8097 (cell)
412-709-6149 (office)

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