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Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools

Riggins School - Birmingham, AL

During the School Air Toxics Initiative (SAT), EPA originally selected three schools in the North Birmingham area for monitoring, because of their location near two coke facilities and other industries that were  sources of air toxics emissions.  Air toxics monitoring was conducted by EPA in 2009  at these three locations, and results indicated the influence from the nearby sources for a number of key pollutants: benzene, arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene.  In addition, data from one of the schools (Lewis) suggested  elevated levels of manganese.   To further assess potential impacts to the broader community, EPA conducted additional monitoring for 12 months in four neighborhoods within the North Birmingham community.  Those neighborhoods included:  Collegeville, North Birmingham, Fairmont, and Harriman Park. Two of these locations varied from the previous areas monitored.  The table below indicates the monitoring locations for each of the communities.

Location of Monitor

Community Monitored  (2011 – 2012 Study)

Hudson K-8 School


Lewis Elementary School

North Birmingham

Riggins School


Shuttlesworth Monitoring Site (formerly called Sloss)

Harriman Park

Concentrations measured for the key pollutants (arsenic, benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese) from the four locations are provided in the table below. Concentrations for other toxic air pollutants measured at these sites are also available. (For example, arsenic may be the key pollutant at a monitoring site but other metals, such as manganese, measured in the sample also are available.)

About the Data
The table below shows the levels of key pollutants in air samples collected at the monitoring site beginning in June 2011 and continuing into August 2012. The table also includes individual “sample screening levels” for each key pollutant monitored at the school during the SAT study.  EPA developed these screening levels to help the Agency and the community get an early sense of what the data were showing. The sample screening level is a level of pollution in the air that is below what we expect to cause health problems from short-term exposures – all day, every day over a period ranging up to at least a couple of weeks (longer, for some pollutants).  These screening levels were used only as guidelines  during the SAT project.

About The Table

Compare the sample results to the short-term screening level at the top of the table. Numbers at or below that level indicate the pollutant is not likely to pose immediate health concerns.

To use the screening level, compare it to each sample result:

  • a sample result at or below the sample screening level is not a concern for risk of health problems from short-term exposures.
  • a sample result above the screening level does not mean that there is a risk to children and adults at the school.  It is a signal for EPA to further evaluate those and subsequent results for that pollutant. 

After monitoring was completed, EPA analyzed the potential for health concerns from long-term exposure through a risk assessment. This analysis can be found under the Final Analysis tab. Monitoring results are in the table below.

Initial Sample Results
Key Pollutants Arsenic (Nanograms/
cubic meter)
Benzene (Micrograms/
cubic meter)**
Benzo[a]pyrene (Micrograms/
cubic meter)
Non-FRM/FEM (Nanograms/
cubic meter)
Sample Date Community Name

Screening Level

Screening Level
Screening Level
Screening Level
06/24/11 Collegeville 0.91 -- 0.0000594 NA
" Fairmont 1.05 3.61 0.00183 NA
" Harriman Park 3.19 -- 0.00334 NA
" North Birmingham 0.73 1.80 0.000115 21.4
07/07/11 Collegeville 2.51 9.27 0.00128 NA
" Fairmont 2.09 13.3 0.00219 NA
" Harriman Park 2.82 10.9 0.00211 NA
" North Birmingham 2.35 8.88 0.000732 53.4
07/13/11 Collegeville 1.59 2.30 0.000351 NA
" Fairmont 1.73 2.43 0.000714 NA
" Harriman Park 2.78 8.43 0.00208 NA
" North Birmingham 1.05 1.95 0.000398 25.5
07/19/11 Collegeville 2.14 17.5 0.00377 NA
" Fairmont 2.76 5.37 0.00942 NA
" Harriman Park 2.46 21.6 0.00219 NA
" North Birmingham -- 7.16 0.00232 --
07/24/11 Collegeville -- 1.45 -- NA
" Fairmont -- 3.93 -- NA
" Harriman Park -- 2.95