This Is the American School With the Most Toxic Air

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America’s air pollution problems were particularly grim in the 1970s. The smog in Los Angeles was so thick that it looked like modern-day Beijing. On some days, drivers were discouraged from commuting. School children were not allowed to go out for recess. A number of regulations cut the problem so substantially that Los Angeles does not face severe smog days at all.

Air pollution around America, however, has not been eliminated by any means. To combat a lingering problem in some areas, the Department of Education’s $122-billion Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund set aside monies to improve air quality in schools in the 2021-2020 academic year. Upgrading ventilation, installing carbon monoxide monitors, and bringing in fresh air as much as possible were some of the measures schools could use the funds for to clear the air.

Yet several schools across the nation continued to register poor air quality not just because of a contagious virus, but due to airborne toxins as well.

To identify the American school with the highest concentrations of toxic air hazards, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the average toxic air hazard data in the report, “The 50 Schools in America With the Most Toxic Air,” by playground supplier AAA State of Play.

The report used PERI Toxic Hazard Scores, calculated by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The analysis includes only currently operational regular public schools for pre-K-12 and does not cover charter, alternative, private, or adult education institutions. The scores are based on the concentration of air toxins in each 810-by-810-meter (2,657-by-2,657-foot) grid cell within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of each facility, scaled to take into account the toxicity weight of each chemical. According to the report, all of the chemicals are hazardous, but their toxicities vary greatly. (Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.)

According to the report, the average toxic hazard score reached 4,512 nationwide. But some schools went above that mark – and by a wide margin.

The school with the most toxic air is Cromwell Elementary School. Here are the details:

> Location: Memphis, TN
> Population: 650,910
> School’s toxic air hazard: 1,637,292
> School’s biggest toxic hazard: Chromium


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