Reading, Writing, and Surfing. (Innovative Technologies)

Article excerpt

Day after day, your child comes home from school suffering from a headache, nausea, and a cough. After a few hours at home, he feels fine. If you suspect that indoor pollution at school is to blame, what signs do you look for? And if you find a problem at school, how can you fix it?

These and similar questions perplex parents, teachers, and school board members every day. To help provide some answers, the Canadian advocacy organizations Pollution Probe, the Technology and Health Foundation, and the Education Safety Association of Ontario have launched HealthySchools.com, an interactive Web site.

Common indoor pollutants such as mold, odors from perfumes and cleaning products, and volatile organic compounds that slowly evaporate from particle-board desks are common sources of health problems in schools. Bruce Small, executive director of the Technology and Health Foundation, says, "At least 15% of any population is chemically sensitive. That translates into many people in every school, whether students or staff." Children are at special risk from pollutants because, in proportion to their size, they breathe more air than do adults. Indoor air pollution is compounded by ventilation systems that aren't maintained because of lack of budget or staff or both, Small says.

HealthySchools.com is intended to provide a variety of practical information for teachers, parents, and others who must tackle school environmental problems on their own. Canadian schools are under the jurisdiction of the provinces, and no federal money is specifically allocated for improving schools' indoor environmental quality. "School boards have to find creative ways of solving problems," says Sandra Schwartz, manager of Pollution Probe's child health program. "HealthySchools.com is designed so that users can develop their own how-to manuals."

The Web site is divided into seven different areas, including case studies of specific schools, links to existing references such as "Tools for Schools" from the U. …