As concern grows over airborne metal pollutants, the accuracy of data points is being called into question

Apr 02, 2010 | 04:39 AM | Paul Schaffer

Public concern over airborne metals and chemicals has been recertified as a hot-button health issue.

The Dallas Morning News ran a 1,200-word story in January on how close to an Exide Technologies lead recycling smelter the state may locate its monitoring equipment for air toxics, a tug-of-war that highlights the mundane headaches required to collect actual data.

But what if there were a secret technique to avoid all of that messy stuff?

Voila! Click on to USA Today's Web site and you will find a fascinating database accompanying a series titled "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools." The database provides information on the five worst air pollutants estimated at each of 128,000 schools and the five polluters most responsible for those toxics, along with a good-to-bad nationwide ranking.

According to a first-place award citation in February from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, the USA Today reporters "gathered tens of millions of air quality and industrial pollution records" and "then used the Environmental Protection Agency's own pollution model to identify thousands of schools where the air was far more toxic than in nearby neighborhoods."....

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