The 10 Biggest Chemicals Polluting America’s Schools

Sylvia Powell
2 min readJun 22, 2022


When it comes to our children, there is already so much to worry about in terms of their health and happiness. One area of a child’s life that we may not even be considering when it comes to their health (and their health in the future) is if the air they’re breathing in schools is as non-toxic as we would like it to be.

Have you ever stopped and wondered what chemicals your child may be breathing while they’re at school? Neither did I, until I came across a recent study by AAA State of Play that highlights the 50 public schools in the United States with the most toxic air. Their study also includes the chemicals that are affecting American schools the most and creating these high concentrations of toxic hazards in the air, which is what I’m focusing on here. Below are the 10 toxic hazards that were found to be a Top 5 chemical for schools in the most states.

  1. Lead compounds & Lead
  2. Chromium & Chromium Compounds
  3. Nickel
  4. Polycyclic aromatic compounds
  5. Manganese
  6. Lead
  7. Chromium compounds
  8. Ammonia
  9. Formaldehyde
  10. Sulfuric Acid

Lead, chromium, and nickel were the three chemicals found to affect schools in the most states, with each being a Top 5 chemical in over 30 states! What affects can these chemicals have on a developing child?

  • Lead exposure can be very detrimental to a child’s health. It can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed development, behavioural and learning problems, as well as affect a child’s hearing and speech.
  • Chromium is another chemical commonly found in schools, although it’s detrimental affect on children has only really been studied in recent years. One study did find that students with chromium exposure had lower test scores than those that weren’t exposed.
  • Nickel is the third most common chemical found in US schools. Research has found that exposure to nickel can affect hormones and the reproductive system, as well as the endocrine system.

Many of these chemicals can be linked to factories and facilities in the areas surrounding our schools; which means that the whole town/city is breathing in these toxic chemicals. Which chemicals are creating the biggest toxic hazard where you live?