Boston Ordinance Proposed: City Council to Audit School Repairs
Boston Ordinance Proposed: City Council to Audit School Repairs
The Mayor of Boston, MA, has rapidly signed the Ordinance Regarding Public School Infrastructure Annual Auditing, offered by Boston City Councilman Chuck Turner. This will require a report from the (Boston) school department "detailing the repairs, renovations and upgrades necessary to endure, protect and/or improve the condition of each and every school building. The report will be be submitted each year to the Clerk for the City by March 1st. " The Boston City Council and Mayor's office, together with a myriad of asthma and school health organizations working together in a coalition, have determined that Boston's schools, in major states of disrepair, were causing a major health problem for the greater Boston area. The City Council determined that their oversight was necessary, to improve the infrastructure of the school buildings in Boston and create a system of accountability. After several years of intensive study, laws in Boston are being developed to address the problerm. Click to read the new law, Ordinance Regarding Public School Infrastructure Annual Auditing (2006).
Click here to order a copy (http://www.schoolmoldhelp.org/res.html) of the Boston Mold Hearings (2004) sponsored by Boston City Council, which was a fact-finding public meeting, 5 hours in length, to study the impact of mold from public and private buildings. Many activists and noted experts were present.
Boston Public Schools Mold and Asthma / Aspergillosis, Teacher Testimony
BOSTON UNION TEACHER
(Excerpts from BTU Member Ginny Tomasini Lane’s Testimony)
Good Morning. My name is Ginny Tomasini Lane. I have aspergillosis. And
a law degree. I got one because I got the other. I am a teacher.
In September of 1998 I was sent with my class of 25 first graders to a classroom
that had been closed for mold infestation. It was the beginning of the end
of my health, stamina and quality of life as I then knew it. The school was the
Oliver Hazard Perry in South Boston. Still open for business. There have been
14 cases of breast cancer. Six were diagnosed in a span of 18 months.
Some are dead. Others are dying. I am the lucky one.
I was clueless and allergy free when I was sent to that sick classroom. Clueless
as to the effects of mold on the human body. A career Kindergarten teacher,
observation was my most prized tool. How could it be that the same biohazards
of war, banned by the Geneva Convention of 1924, could be making me
and the kids sick with asthma and worse. In a classroom. A purported safehaven.
The now retired head of the World Health Organization, Dr. A.V. Constantini,
and Lars Qvick, Medical Director for the World Health Organization in 1999
authored “The Prevention of Breast Cancer, Hope at Last: The Fungal/Mycotoxin
Etiology of Breast Cancer,” only a year after my students and I were exposed to
aspergillus fumigatus. After 3 years of sinus infections, pneumonia, hearing
loss, hair loss, and other symptoms, in 2000, my diagnosis was confirmed by a
lung wash and biopsy. It was an exact match to testing of materials from my
classroom, requested by BTU president Richard Stutman, by an MIT lab. I
was lucky. No amount of personal bad-mouthing and disparagement could argue
with the results. Others are not so lucky.
Industrial Hygienists at both the city and state levels did not test for what
made me sick, and then did nothing to extricate my students and me from our
toxic gulag. The harassment I suffered and my personal outrage at being made
sick led to my application to law school in an attempt to find some answers to
this problem. I have testified at the city, state and for Congressman Conyers in
Detroit in 2002, as the first teacher to take this mold problem out of a strictly
residential context. It took me 5-1/2 years to do a 3 year law degree program
because of my continuous pneumonia, sinus infections and intense fatigue.
I am now retired from the Boston Public Schools on disability retirement. I
was only a few years short of what I would have needed and preferred as a
regular retired teacher. I gave 30 years of my life to other people’s children. It
is what we teachers do. Every day was a gift and privilege. But, the salary could
never compensate me for the 8 years of loss of energy, time in bed and quality
time which came out of the hides of my own 3 kids.
My prime concern with this bill is that the Department of Public Health and
Department of Occupational Safety is charged with the responsibility for enforcement.
As far as I am concerned, because of the tendency to be subject to
political manipulation, there needs to be oversight. Those in Industrial Hygiene
and the medical profession are held to a canon of ethics which is set forth by
their profession, and hat is the standard to which they should be held.
It cannot be, that willful chicanery in testing of classrooms will be tolerated
or that the data collection process tampered with.
I support this bill and urge its passage, but with this caveat; to closely oversee
the Indoor Air Quality Testing, and the results, as if your own lives and
those of your children depend upon it. Because they do. Thank you.
(Ginny Tomasini Lane is a retired teacher.)
Retired Teacher Supports Legislation Regarding Indoor Air Quality
New Report Links High Rate of Asthma to Poor School Environmental Conditions in
Boston Public Schools
City Council Considers Resolutions Calling for School
Building Audit Deadlines and Increased Funding
As the Boston City Council considered resolutions that respond to the urgent
state of disrepair in Boston’s public schools, representatives from two public
health advocacy groups released a new report showing stronger evidence linking
poor school conditions with high rates of asthma.
Written and produced by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH)
and the Boston Urban Asthma Coalition (BUAC),
“Who’s Sick at School: Linking poor school conditions and health disparities for Boston’s
children” is the first report in the state to compare school environmental audits
with asthma rates.
“As a parent and MassCOSH Healthy Schools Coordinator, it is shocking to see
the data that shows the number of schools with poor environmental conditions
that can affect asthma. But when you actually see the conditions with your
own eyes, it is a disgrace that we cannot find the resources to make our schools
healthy learning places.” said Isabel Lopez, at a City Council hearing where
the report was released.
Asthma is the number one chronic illness of children in the Boston Public
Schools and the number one childhood cause for hospitalizations in Boston. It
accounts for an average of 14 million missed school days and results in $9 billion
in health care costs nationwide. Nationally, inequities in health conditions,
such as asthma, together may account for as much as a quarter of the racial gap in
school readiness. The cause or causes of asthma are still unclear although research
has found that exposure to pests, molds, diesel exhaust, and environmental
tobacco smoke play key roles in asthma’s development and exacerbation.
Poor school environmental conditions exacerbate already-existing student
asthma and contribute to problems such as allergies, sinus infections and decreased
student performance. “It’s imperative that we get funding to
fix our schools immediately. We need to do something about the leaks and the
mice. Students and teachers are getting sick,” said Nia Burke, Physical Education
Teacher and Boston Teachers Union member.
Using data from school environmental audits collected in 2004 - 2005, the report
shows that those students attending the schools ranking worst on three major
environmental factors for asthma (mold, pests, and leaks) also have high
asthma rates. Eighty-five percent of Boston Public Schools reported leaks or water
stains, 36 reported visible mold growth, 63 percent reported overt pest
signs, 83 percent reported repairs needed and 61 percent reported improper chemical
storage. Over 80 percent reported one or more of these problems. The schools
with the highest percentages are often located in the lowest income areas and
those with the highest incidences of asthma – some double the state average.
Mary White, BUAC Parent Leader and parent of two Boston Public School students
said, “We know what the problem is and we have the findings, so why does
it take so long to get repairs done? It should be about the health of our children,
yet why does it take so long? The money should be in the budget to fix our
In presenting this report, the Coalitions call for the Mayor and City Council
to support them in raising the $200 million needed for capital repairs that would
bring these top offenders up to safe and healthy standards and to ensure that the
Mayor’s Green Building Initiative prioritizes work in the schools. They also emphasized
that the health of children of color and low income families are disproportionately
impacted: 85% of Boston’s student population are children of color
and 74% qualify for free or reduced-rate meals.
“The city can address many of these problems now. While we would like to see
the state and federal government add their support, we can’t wait forever. We
have known about the problems long enough – it is time to see some changes
made.” said Jean Zotter, Executive Director of the Boston Urban Asthma Coalition.