Rowles and some parents fear the children are involuntarily sniffing the solvent toluene, released from the Aldan Rubber Co. next door.
Toluene, sometimes inhaled for a brief high, is believed to cause brain damage when inhaled in heavy concentrations. Aldan uses the solvent to dissolve rubber before it is applied as a coating to fabrics.
But the city's Air Management Services, after sampling and studying the plant's emissions, has told parents that the releases of chemicals are below levels that would cause risks to health.
Air Management has repeatedly cited the company for odors, but the company contends the smells are probably coming from other unspecified factories nearby.
In the latest step in a long standoff, lawyers for parents, students and faculty members last week filed notice under federal court rules of their intention to sue Aldan to get rid of the smell.
The school says the odors have caused children and others "to suffer headaches, stomach upsets and irritations of the eyes-nose-throat on numerous occasions," said Jerome Balter of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia in the notice to the company and local, state and federal agencies.
The company, at Salmon and Tioga streets, says it has spent more than $2 million to cut emissions of toluene and other chemicals by 80 percent to 90 percent in the past 14 years.
According to company reports to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Aldan released 1.3 million pounds of toluene into the air in 1987 and again in 1988, and 867,000 pounds in 1989. Neither the EPA nor Air Management has ruled that excessive.