Pollution is bad for your health and the environment. It’s also bad for schools, two recent studies show.

WHITING , INDIANA – JANUARY 08: The BP refinery sits across the street from Marktown Park on January 08, 2019 in Whiting, Indiana. Despite the closing of a large number of coal-fired power plants, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States rose 3.4 percent last year according to a report from the Rhodium Group. A rise in emissions from factories, trucks and planes contributed heavily to this increase. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Matt Barnum for chalkbeat.org

Late last year, the Trump administration moved to roll back Obama-era regulations designed to improve air quality and limit pollution. No one thought of it as an education story.

But new research suggests it is, at least in part. While the health risks of air pollution have long been documented, two recent studies are among the first to directly connect two different forms of pollution to lower test scores and higher absence rates among exposed schoolchildren.

Schools across the country — particularly those serving more low-income students of color — are often located near hotbeds of pollution, like highways.

“The results are pretty damning,” said Claudia Persico, a professor at American University and one of the researchers behind both of the studies. “These papers suggest that pollution might play a much bigger role in inequality in outcomes between rich and poor kids and between black and white kids than we previously realized.”

The two studies both examine Florida in the 1990s and 2000s.

In one, researchers Persico, Jennifer Heissel, and David Simon look at whether being exposed to pollution from a major highway affects school performance. To do that, they compare students who switch to a school downwind from a highway to similar students moving to schools upwind (and thus less exposed to that pollution).

Downwind students performed slightly worse on state tests, were 4 percentage points more likely to have a behavioral infraction and half a percentage point more likely to be absent.

Read more here.

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