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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense
Precautionary Principle & Right to Know Advocate Named 2012 WebMD Hero
Robina Suwol, Children's Environmental Health & Environmental Justice Champion Honored for Overcoming a Medical Challenge, and then Giving Back.
LOS ANGELES, CA- WebMD Health Heroes awards celebrate extraordinary Americans who met a health challenge and gave back to others in an inspiring way. The 2012 WebMD Health Heroes include Robina Suwol and the organization she founded in 1998, California Safe Schools.
“WebMD health heroes are inspiring individuals who encourage health and wellness in each of their communities,” Clare Martorana, Editor in Chief of WebMD the Magazine said in a press release. “We are excited to celebrate their continued achievements and support their goals to make an impact in the lives of those facing their own health challenges.”
Robina Suwol's efforts began in 1998 with the Los Angeles Unified School District (2nd largest school district in the nation), where she spearheaded groundbreaking efforts to protect the health of children and vulnerable communities throughout California and the nation. The diverse children’s coalition she founded, California Safe Schools (http://www.calisafe.org) includes more than fifty organizations.
CSS began one day in March, 1998, when grade school students encountered an LAUSD gardener in a hazardous materials suit who was spraying the herbicide Princep. The students ended up walking through a cloud of pesticide mist on their way to their classrooms.
Several parents who had dropped off their children at the school were alarmed to witness this event. One of them was Robina Suwol, whose sons, ages six and ten, were forced to walk directly through the cloud. Later, her youngest son, Nicholas, whose asthma had been under control, experienced a severe asthma attack. Robina’s research on a Cornell University website revealed that a single exposure to Princep could cause tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and other symptoms.
With no litigious motives, only a desire to protect students, teachers, staff and residents near school sites, Robina led parents to investigate. They learned that many chemical pesticides commonly used in schools posed risks to growing children, including risks of cancer and learning disabilities
With the support of the School Board, a committee was formed. One year to the date that Nicholas became ill, California Safe Schools and LAUSD created the most stringent pesticide policy in the nation for schools. The policy was the first in the USA that embraced the "Precautionary Principle" and "Parents Right to Know" regarding pesticides in schools. To ensure implementation, a fifteen-member oversight committee was formed. The committee meets monthly and members include parents, community members, and environmentalists.
The success of the policy led to California legislation, the Healthy Schools Act 2000, and AB 405, which was spearheaded by Robina and California Safe Schools. This latter law prevents experimental , conditional or phased out pesticides from being used on any K-12 California public school campus. As a result, 6 million students, and hundreds of thousands of teachers and school employees, are protected. These efforts have had enormous success and become a model for protecting human health and the environment, not only in California but throughout the nation and internationally. On March 30, 2012, California Safe Schools celebrated fourteen years of success..
"It was a tremendous honor to be recognized by WebMD, and we greatly appreciate their generous $2500. donation to California Safe Schools," Suwol says, "As rates of childhood cancer, asthma, neurological disorders, endocrine and hormonal disorders and birth defects increase, there is no better time than now to protect our children's health.”
For further information:
California Safe Schools
Robina Suwol YouTube