Reveal: How America’s highways are hurting children

Throughout the country, thousands of public schools lie within 500 feet of pollution-choked roads like highways and truck routes. On this episode of Reveal, we team up with The Center for Public Integrity to investigate the high levels of exhaust that surround U.S. schools and how the bad air affects the millions of children who breathe it in. Image: Allison McCartney for Reveal

Every day in Newark, New Jersey, almost 600 trucks rumble past Hawkins Street School. Inside, many kids suffer the consequences of polluted air. We meet one family that has struggled with asthma, and we learn that older trucks with outdated diesel engines wreak havoc on the air by remaining on the road.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

And we find out from CPI reporter Jamie Hopkins how many schools operate near busy roads – and how her team was able to figure that out.

Next, Reveal reporter Amy Walters takes us to El Marino elementary school in Los Angeles next to the 405 freeway. That’s the busiest highway in America, but inside almost every classroom the kids breathe clean air. How’s that possible? Parents and teachers got together to install air filters at El Marino. One mom with a science background tells us how they did it.

We hear from Hopkins again to find out what parents can do if they’re worried about the air near their children’s school.

Finally, Reveal producer Ike Sriskandarajah visits Chicago – where hospitalization rates for asthma are twice the national average. One problem for people with weakened respiratory systems is that they never know when they’re going to walk into pockets of dirty air. Now there’s a new tool to help them: Air quality monitoring that can identify pollution hot spots and give neighborhood groups the data to push for policy changes. We explore some solutions on a tour of several big data, clean-air pilot projects in the Windy City.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast.

Picture of kgnu



Now Playing

Recent Stories

Upcoming Events


This May 1st and 2nd, we’re encouraging you to give and to publicly express what KGNU personally means to you.

We join other public and local stations across the country for this second annual event. It’s your forum to support and champion how KGNU connects with your values.


Learn More