Healthy Schools: Indoor Air Quality

Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health, but many do not know that indoor air pollution can also cause harm. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. This is of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors.
Failure to prevent indoor air problems, or failure to act promptly, can have consequences such as:

  • increasing the chances for long-term and short-term health problems for students and staff
  • impacting the student learning environment, comfort, and attendance
  • reducing productivity of teachers and staff due to discomfort, sickness, or absenteeism
  • faster deterioration and reduced efficiency of the school physical plant and equipment
  • increasing the chance that schools will have to be closed, or occupants temporarily moved
  • straining relationships among school administration and parents and staff
  • creating negative publicity that could damage a school’s or administration’s image and effectiveness
  • creating potential liability problems

Good indoor air quality contributes to a favorable learning environment for students, productivity for teachers and staff, and a sense of comfort, health, and well-being for school occupants. These combine to assist a school in its core mission — educating children.

Resources

US Environmental Protection Agency Tools for Schools (TfS) – Comprehensive tool kit free to schools to improve indoor air quality.

MN Department of Health – Indoor Air Quality in Schools – Includes comprehensive management plans.

American Lung Association – Air Quality in Schools

ToxRAP: Toxicology, Risk Assessment and Pollution – Using air pollution as an example, students learn to recognize the hazards for air contaminants in their environments, evaluate the potential health risks of these contaminants, and, when necessary, control hazards to reduce risks.  K-9.

Teacher’s Guide to Indoor Air QualityThe National Safety Council’s Environmental Health Center has developed the Teacher’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality. It is 113 pages of curriculum including a variety of handouts and activities.

Asthma and Schools – This site consolidates information about asthma-related resources for school personnel working with grades K-12.  The simple, searchable database links to educational materials, medical information, websites, and other resources useful for anyone who works in a school serving children and youth.

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Ask about obtaining four publications: Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools, Asthma and Physical Activity in School, How Asthma Friendly is Your School?, and the Asthma Awareness Curriculum.

Managing Asthma in the School Environment (pdf, 22pp)US Environmental Protection Agency

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