ABC News
October 19, 2005


Some Doctors Alarmed by Hidden Chemicals at Schools

Oct. 11, 2005 -- - Kellianne King was a healthy, vibrant little girl
until she started preschool. That's when she started to suffer from
headaches, sinus infections, chest pains and seizures, says her
mother, Kathy King.

It was a heart-wrenching time for the family. "She would stand on her
bed and she would just scream, 'You have to -- you have to help me.
Someone has to help me." And we couldn't do anything," King said.

And Kellianne, now 13, couldn't enjoy many of the pleasures of being a

"I feel like I didn't get to do much," she said. "I mean, I can ride a
bike and read a book now but when I was little, I never got to do
that. I learned how to do those things much later. So it was hard."

No one, it seemed, could figure out what was making the little girl so
sick. "We took her to all the best doctors and they were just
perplexed by her," King said. "They really just couldn't pinpoint what
was wrong,"

Mystery Illness Revealed

When Kellianne was in the first grade, her parents learned the painful
truth: There were serious air quality problems in her school that had
sickened dozens of students and teachers.

"I was shocked that the only place, the only place I trusted to leave
her was what was making her sick," said King.

Dr. Phillip Landigan chairs the Department of Community and Preventive
Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He is one of
many doctors alarmed by hidden toxins in schools.

"Today, too many chemicals are put into schools that have never been
tested for the possible impacts they have on young children," Landigan

Simple leaks can breed deadly mold behind walls and trigger an asthma
attack; pesticides used to kill insects and weeds can damage a child's
developing nervous system, lowering IQ and affecting attention span.

"Children live down on the floor," Landigan said. "They crawl on the
rug. They're constantly putting their little fingers in their mouths.
And all of those actions increase the child's exposure."

Alarming School Experiment

Just how quickly kids get exposed to toxins in school became clear
when "Good Morning America" conducted an experiment in a classroom at
P.S. 8 in New York.

First, we applied Glo-Germ, a non-toxic powder only visible under
ultra-violet light, in areas where pesticides are most likely to be
sprayed or to settle, like baseboards, windowsills and desktops. Then
we invited the kids to play. After only 20 minutes, we showed them the
stunning results.

Using UV light, we found traces of Glo-Germ all over their clothes,
hands and faces.

"It was actually scary to see how germs can spread, toxins can spread
all over the place," said teacher Olivia Ellis.

Kids spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors. Yet there are no
specific federal requirements limiting the use of toxins, such as
pesticides, in schools, which is why it often takes teamwork to get a
school to clean up its act and its air.

Patricia Berkey is the principal of Hastings Elementary School in
Massachusetts, where Kellianne attended school and was exposed to
toxins. "I think families need to feel comfortable when they send
their children off to school that they're sending their children to a
safe and healthy environment," Berkey said.

That school took action and, nine years later, Hastings is an award-
winning example of a healthy environment school.

A health and safety team, composed of Berkey, a parent, teacher,
school nurse and maintenance technician, regularly inspects the entire
school looking for leaks, dirty ventilation filters and making certain
that only non-toxic cleaners are being used in the classrooms.

"It's a really good feeling to know that if you take a little time out
locally in your schools that the impact can be really far-reaching,"
said King.

How far-reaching? Thanks to King and other parents' efforts, every
school in her district has similar toxin-fighting teams, protecting
the health of some 3,500 students -- including Kellianne.

"I feel very proud to have a mom that would do that for her kid
instead of just giving up and saying, 'Oh well, I can live with them
being like this forever,"" Kellianne said. "Just fighting. Also, not
just for me but for other kids."

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