The ABC of Indoor Air Quality in Schools

indoor air quality in schools

For parents, looking after their children’s health and wellbeing and keeping them safe from harm comes above all. The start of a child’s school journey is one of excitement and opportunity, and the last thing parents should be concerned about is the indoor air quality in schools. However, lurking inside the classrooms, hallways, and cafeterias is an invisible danger that needs urgent attention — indoor air pollution.

With developing respiratory and immune systems (and as it happens, breathing greater volumes of air than adults1) children need access to clean, safe air more than anyone to protect them from the harmful effects of indoor air pollution, particularly at school.

The ABC of Indoor Air Quality in Schools 1

Indoor air quality in schools

Schools in developed countries are generally concentrated in urban areas where outdoor air pollution levels can far exceed safety standards, while others can be housed in old buildings that are cold, lack adequate ventilation, and rely on outdated HVAC systems to control airflow and temperature. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, toluene, xylenes, and styrene — all of which can significantly affect children’s health — can be emitted from solvent-based paints and painting materials used in the art room, while dichloromethane, which has been proven to cause damage to the brain and central nervous system2, is found in glues and spray paints3,4.

Concentrations of these VOCs, allergens, and pathogens can build up over time, exacerbating allergies and playing a role in the transmission of viruses, putting both children and teachers’ health at risk. Add to this an increased susceptibility to air pollution, the development of allergies and asthma, and children’s need for higher volumes of air for physical growth5 and it paints a very worrying picture.

indoor air quality in schools

A is for Asthma

While asthma has traditionally been divided into allergic and non-allergic asthma, the incidence of allergic asthma is highest in early childhood — and more serious due to the smaller airways of young children6 — steadily decreasing with advancing age. In fact, there is a higher prevalence of asthma and allergies among children who attend school in urban areas where there are high concentrations of indoor air pollutants7.

A growing body of evidence shows that traffic-related air pollution, specifically diesel exhaust particles, can exacerbate allergic inflammation and induce the development of allergic immune responses in children8. Concentrations of harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that makes its way into classrooms has been associated with sore throats and colds, as well as respiratory illness and allergic responses, such as wheezing, asthma attacks, and eczema.9,10,11

The ABC of Indoor Air Quality in Schools 2

B is for Breathing Zone

With viral respiratory infections at least twice as common among preschool children than those cared for in their own homes12, children are known to play a significant role as accelerators for the spread of respiratory illness among their peers while at school, as well as in their household13. Crowded spaces like classrooms, corridors, and school assemblies where the breathing zones of occupants overlap increases the risk of cross-infection of airborne viruses.

In fact, seasonal influenza is the leading cause of absenteeism from school14 with respiratory problems commonly leading to hospitalization among children. Ultrafine particulate matter can act as a vector for the spread of airborne viruses, making air pollution even more dangerous. Exposure to air pollution has been associated with chronic cough and bronchitis symptoms, while a study15 carried out over two flu seasons found that 39% of illness episodes and 47% of school days missed were due to influenza — a largely preventable illness.

 

indoor air quality in schools

C is for Concentration

When children flourish and excel at school, not only does it build their confidence but it can also provide them with access to future opportunities. However, poor indoor air quality has been linked to a reduction in a child’s ability to perform specific mental tasks requiring concentration, calculation, and memory16.

Indoor dampness and microbiologic pollutants that negatively affect the indoor air quality in schools have been found to exacerbate asthma and respiratory infections, which are associated with absenteeism and reduced school performance.

indoor air quality in schools

How VIRUSKILLER™ deals with indoor air pollution in schools

While traditional air purifiers may do part of the job, many lack the ability to decontaminate the indoor air in schools, leaving airborne viruses and bacteria to spread illness in children, teachers, and staff. The cost of hiring substitutes when teachers need to take sick leave is preventable, as are the missed learning opportunities of children who are absent due to asthma, allergies, or seasonal colds and flu.

VIRUSKILLER™ is an all-in-one solution for complete indoor air safety in schools, deactivating the most harmful pathogens that lead to illness and discomfort of children, teachers, and staff while improving the overall quality of indoor air in schools. Radic8 units have been thoroughly tested against byproduct formation (such as formaldehyde or ozone), exposure to UV light, radiation, or EMF and have the necessary safety certifications verifying the safe operation of VIRUSKILLER™ products for use in classrooms and schools.

There couldn’t be a better way for children to learn about the dangers of indoor air pollution and the importance of sharing clean air than by seeing VIRUSKILLER™ in action throughout their school.

Learn more about how VIRUSKILLER™ tackles indoor air pollution in schools.


References

  1. B. Foos, M. Marty, J. Schwartz, W. Bennett, J. Moya, A.M. Jarabek, A.G. Salmon, Focusing on children’s inhalation dosimetry and health effects for risk assessment: an introduction, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71(3) (2007) 149-165.
  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Risk Management for Methylene Chloride.” EPA. https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-management-methylene-chloride
  3. D. Kotzias, Indoor air and human exposure assessment–needs and approaches, Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology 57 (2005) 5-7.
  4. P.N. Pegas, M.G. Evtyugina, C.A. Alves, T. Nunes, M. Cerqueira, M. Franchi, C. Pio, S.M. Almeida, M.d.C. Freitas, Outdoor/indoor air quality in primary schools in Lisbon: a preliminary study, Quimica nova 33(5) (2010) 1145-1149.
  5. “Children spend at least a third of their time inside school buildings, that is, approximately seven or more hours a day in school” – Almeida et al.: ‘Children exposure to air particulate matter in indoor of Lisbon primary schools’, Atmospheric Environment, vol. 45, 2010, 40, 7594–7599
  6. B. Foos, M. Marty, J. Schwartz, W. Bennett, J. Moya, A.M. Jarabek, A.G. Salmon, Focusing on children’s inhalation dosimetry and health effects for risk assessment: an introduction, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71(3) (2007) 149-165.
  7. J.M. Daisey, W.J. Angell, M.G. Apte, Indoor air quality, ventilation and health symptoms in schools: an analysis of existing information, Indoor air 13(LBNL-48287) (2003).
  8. B. Foos, M. Marty, J. Schwartz, W. Bennett, J. Moya, A.M. Jarabek, A.G. Salmon, Focusing on children’s inhalation dosimetry and health effects for risk assessment: an introduction, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71(3) (2007) 149-165.
  9. I. Annesi-Maesano, N. Baiz, S. Banerjee, P. Rudnai, S. Rive, S. Group, Indoor air quality and sources in schools and related health effects, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 16(8) (2013) 491-550.
  10. Y. Mi, D. Norbäck, J. Tao, Y. Mi, M. Ferm, Current asthma and respiratory symptoms among pupils in Shanghai, China: influence of building ventilation, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and formaldehyde in classrooms, Indoor air 16(6) (2006) 454-464.
  11. I. Annesi-Maesano, M. Hulin, F. Lavaud, C. Raherison, C. Kopferschmitt, F. de Blay, D.A. Charpin, C. Denis, Poor air quality in classrooms related to asthma and rhinitis in primary schoolchildren of the French 6 Cities Study, Thorax 67(8) (2012) 682-688.
  12. J. Robinson, Infectious diseases in schools and child care facilities, Pediatrics in review 22(2) (2001) 39-46.
  13. K.A. Poehling, K.M. Edwards, M.R. Griffin, P.G. Szilagyi, M.A. Staat, M.K. Iwane, B.M. Snively, C.K. Suerken, C.B. Hall, G.A. Weinberg,The burden of influenza in young children, 2004–2009, Pediatrics 131(2) (2013) 207-216.
  14. A. Wiseman, S. Dawson, Why do students miss school? The Central Texas absence reasons study, E3 Alliance, Austin, TX, 2015.
  15. H.Q. McLean, S.H. Peterson, J.P. King, J.K. Meece, E.A. Belongia, School absenteeism among school‐aged children with medically attended acute viral respiratory illness during three influenza seasons, 2012‐2013 through 2014‐2015, Influenza and other respiratory viruses 11(3) (2017) 220-229.
  16. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2003. Indoor air quality and student performance. EPA/402/K-03/006. Washington, DC.

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