As our kids (big and small) return back to the hallowed halls of academia, pulling on backpacks and sharpening pencils, the indoor air quality of their learning environment certainly isn’t on their minds. A school both new and old can have harmful indoor air quality that may be affecting your child’s ability to learn as well as their health. Most people know that outdoor air pollution is bad for our health, but in indoor environments, pollutants that affect indoor air quality can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Since we all spend nearly 90% of our lives indoors, making sure that the indoor air quality of our schools is beneficial to both our children and their teachers.
Poor indoor air quality in school buildings can be caused by many things. Many old schools are plagued by mold growth, which happens when moisture and poor air circulation meet organic materials, like insulation, the grout in bathrooms, or even school books and other paper materials. Mold can be hazardous to indoor air quality and your health because to spread, mold releases airborne spores that are easy to breathe in. Mold spores can irritate children and adults with asthma and other chronic lung conditions, as well as cause itchy watery eyes, nasal congestion, and headaches.
Indoor air quality pollutants like VOCs and other chemicals are often a problem in learning environments as well. These harmful chemicals can come from a variety of sources such as building materials, soft or hard furnishings, or the materials used to clean the building. There is a growing awareness of scent-free environments in the adult workplace, but it’s not a bad idea to consider it for schools as well, as many students are easily affected by scents in their indoor air quality.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that approximately 50% of schools have indoor air quality issues. Children are especially at risk because they are still growing and developing, and poor indoor air quality has been shown to make it harder for both children and adults to concentrate and focus. When the indoor air quality environment is poor, cold and flu viruses also spread quickly and affect more people, causing more absenteeism and lost learning experiences.
If you are concerned about the indoor air quality of the school your children attend, or a school where you work, the best way to create change is to get involved. Asking your PTA, school council, or board of directors to run indoor air quality testing to make sure that your school’s indoor environment is safe for everyone can give you peace of mind, especially if you have a child that suffers from chronic illness. indoor air quality issues in a school can require fixes both big and small, but providing a healthier learning environment benefits us all, and can start from small fixes, like changing to scent-free cleaning products, to larger solutions, like upgrading old HVAC and removing old building materials, such as things containing asbestos.
Get in touch with us at SafeAir if you’re interested in testing the indoor air quality of your school or workplace.