USA Today Reports Possible Toxic Air in Oklahoma Schools

Wednesday, December 10th 2008, 7:54 am
By: News On 6

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A just-published study suggests thousands of children across the country, including some in Oklahoma, may be breathing in toxic air every day at school, putting them at greater risk of developing cancer.

The USA Today story "Air Tests Reveal Elevated Levels Of Toxics At Schools," tested the air outside 95 schools in 30 states, including schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas.

Read the USA Today Report

Soldier Creek Elementary School sits at the intersection of southeast 15th and Douglas and according to the USA Today study the air there has elevated levels of Benzene and Chromium that are carcinogens that can increase a person's risk of developing cancer.

But state environmental officials said some of the information is misleading.

"Those chemicals can be carcinogenic, however, looking at the USA Today story, that makes the assumption that all of the chromium found near Soldier Creek Elementary is carcinogenic; DEQ believes that that information is false," Skylar McElhany with the Department of Environmental Quality said.

Still, DEQ is planning to conduct its own, more thorough, air monitoring there acknowledging that there does seem to be at least some unhealthy level of pollution possibly coming from Tinker Air Force Base.

"It's possible, and like I said, we do plan to put a monitoring site near Tinker to see what may be going on out there," McElhany said.

Officials with the Mid-Del School District said they learned of the study and its results only Tuesday. They urge parents not to worry.

"Any time something is in the news like this, it may heighten concerns, but I can say, as a parent of a Mid-Del student, I feel perfectly safe sending my children to school here in this district," Stacy Boyer with Midwest City-Del City Schools said.

Several schools in Sand Springs and one in Claremore were on the list as well.

USA Today chose locations to test the air using a government computer model that shows how industrial emissions are dispersed across the country. They collected the data over a span of several days this fall.

DEQ officials don't know how soon they'll begin their air monitoring program in Oklahoma City. They've been doing it in Tulsa for the past couple of years.