Schools: Resources for Safe Chemical Management

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Why It's Important

  • Improper chemical management poses health and safety risks to students, school employees and the environment. It only takes one incident to break the community's trust.
  • Disposal, spills and other incidents can result in loss of education time and considerable expenses, including potential liabilities/lawsuits.
  • Toxic chemicals are associated with a variety of serious health problems, including cancer, brain and nervous system disorders, reproductive disorders, organ damage, as well as asthma.
  • Chemicals also can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Some chemicals pose significant safety hazards, such as fire or explosion risks.

What You Can Do

  • Put in place an experienced leadership team to oversee chemical management, storage and handling activities.
  • Implement pollution prevention and green chemistry (safer alternatives) principles to minimize the use of hazardous chemicals at schools.
  • Establish an environmentally preferable purchasing policy and conduct periodic chemical inventories to identify hazards.
  • Train school personnel on hazardous chemicals management and safety.
  • Create an emergency response and spill clean-up plan. Communicate with school personnel and students about the plan and the chemicals and products in the school.
  • Visit EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics website for more information on federal laws that protect us from the potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals.

EPA and Federal Partners

  • EPA's Schools and Mercury website provides links to information for school administrators, faculty, staff, local health jurisdictions and parent groups on how to reduce the hazards of mercury on children's health, avoid chemical liabilities, develop planning tools, and establish collection programs for mercury.
  • The Chemical Management and Usage section of EPA's "Case Study of Environmental, Health & Safety Issues Involving the Burlington, MA Public School System" describes the actions taken by the school system to improve chemical management as well as the outcomes of their efforts.
  • The Pollution Prevention (P2) website provides general information about P2 practices, the various source reduction programs and initiatives administered by EPA and other organizations, and contacts for further information.
  • Tox Town is an interactive tool from the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine that introduces toxic chemicals and environmental health risks you might encounter in everyday life, in everyday places, including schools.
  • Contaminants in Schools and Child Care Facilities are summarized in EPA'sAmerica's Children and the Environment report, including information on potential exposures of children to pesticides and industrial chemicals.

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National Organizations

  • Chem Info Net  from ChemSafe Consulting is a chemical health and safety resource for teachers, administrators and service personnel, focusing on waste/hazardous waste management, laboratory safety and chemicals used in the science curriculum. The information is based on current regulations and prudent practices; users should consult local and state agencies if standards or procedures are unclear.
  • Information for K-12 Schools  by CampusERC provides resources and addresses laws and regulations on numerous schools topics.

Regional, State and Local Resources

  • Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments  by EPA provides an overview of issues related to chemical management in schools.
  • The Product Review Database, maintained by the Los Angeles (California) Unified School District, offers a searchable database of over 6,000 products evaluated by the district's Office of Environmental Health and Safety to determine their suitability for use in and around Los Angeles schools.
  • The Toxics Use Reduction Institute at University of Massachusetts Lowell describes how Massachusetts school systems are creatively incorporating toxics use reduction into their policies and daily operations and offers related events and publications.
  • Chemical Management in Schools is addressed on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website, including guidance on self-certification for school laboratories, inventory procedures, lists of common chemical hazards and prohibited or restricted chemicals, and more.
  • Read Maryland's Science Safety Manual chapter on the safe management, handling and disposal of chemicals. The manual was a joint effort between the Maryland Science Supervisors Association and the state’s Department of Education.
  • The Mercury Assessment Checklist for Schools by the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association helps to identify and locate mercury-containing products and equipment; these are generally found in the following areas: science labs, facilities, medical offices, and home economics and art classrooms.
  • The School Chemicals and Disposal guidance document is offered by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. It addresses waste reduction and management, how to create an inventory, and hazardous or radioactive materials, including chemicals that usually have a greater hazard than usefulness.
  • The Pollution Prevention in Schools Project by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services helps schools properly manage chemicals and links to fact sheets on topics such as laboratory chemical management and guidance on eliminating mercury from schools.
  • Improving Chemical Management in Maine Schools is a presentation by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection that addresses where chemicals can be found, the origin of the chemical program, costs regarding chemical management, and the importance of business managers.
  • Florida School Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection includes information on how to conduct a chemical inventory.
  • Risk Assessment of Artificial Turf Fields (PDF)(6 pp, 445 K, About PDF)by the Connecticut Department of Public Health describes three studies performed on the health, safety and environmental aspects of rubber infill material used on artificial turf fields.