Why air quality in schools should be everyone’s priority

Marie Bannister
December 7, 2020

It goes without saying that parents and teachers all have children’s best interests at heart. What is there to do then, when new research exemplifies the need for healthy indoor air for children? Does it fall to the parents? The teachers? Or the schools? Who ensures that this is taken seriously and measured effectively?

What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-2


We spend 90% of our time indoors1, where the air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoors2. For children, a large portion of that time is spent in schools and they are considered one of the more sensitive groups in regards to atmospheric pollution. This is because their bodies are actively growing and they breathe higher volumes of air relative to their body weights than adults do. 

Teachers too can suffer from loss of concentration from high carbon dioxide levels, drowsiness from high temperatures, or the increased risk of cold and flu transmission from poor humidity. When you measure and manage indoor air quality with a solution such as Airthings for Business, both students and staff are healthier, happier and more capable. 

1.Encourage optimal learning and teaching


Taking steps to improve indoor air quality in schools has been shown to have a positive impact on key aspects of student performance.  Concentration, engagement, and cognitive skills are just some of the benefits that can be gained. These are behaviours that translate to improved academic results, such as:

  •     Faster completion of numerical and language-based tasks among 10-12 year olds3.
  •     Better math and reading scores in elementary classrooms4.
  •     Faster and more accurate student responses for color, picture memory, and word recognition in primary schools.

Not only that, teachers and faculty staff feel happier, healthier, and more valued; meaning they are fully present and much more likely to perform well.  

Left unchecked, poor air quality will have the opposite effect.  Factors such as high temperatures, too much carbon dioxide (CO2), lack of ventilation and rising humidity can all encourage lethargy and negatively affect how students and staff feel and perform.What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-7CONTACT US  Want to make sure the air in your school is healthy? 

2. Help support good health


According to a new report published by two respected medical bodies, not enough is being done to tackle the impact of air quality on the health of children and young people6. And it’s just one of a number of studies on the issue. We know, for example, that:

  •     High concentrations of CO2 have shown links to wheezing among children7.
  •     Poor indoor air quality in schools can be a severe health concern for those with asthma and allergies8.
  •     Indoor exposure too has been associated with “Sick Building Syndrome” in children, which is characterized by symptoms such as lethargy, headaches, and sore throats9.  

Although children are more susceptible to the health problems associated with poor air quality, everyone who works in the building is potentially at risk of symptoms ranging from asthma and eczema to impaired cognition10.

Not only that, air contamination levels indoors have been found to be up to five times higher than outdoors11.

Therefore, it makes sense for educational institutions to demonstrate leadership on this issue.What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-5

3. Improve attendance rates


No-one wants staff or students to lose valuable time away from school, college or university due to an illness caused by poor air quality. If attendance drops, results are likely to follow suit.

By addressing air quality requirements, however, educators can help to prevent this by creating a healthier and more comfortable learning environment.

Increased ventilation rates in classrooms, for example, have been shown to help reduce student absence12. In addition better attendance has been associated with elementary and middle school students achieving higher grade point averages and higher scores in academic tests13. Again, good air quality is clearly linked with excellent student performance.What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-3CONTACT US  Want to make sure the air in your school is healthy? 

4. Demonstrate responsibility and duty of care


Parents and carers want the reassurance that the wellbeing of their children is a priority. 91% of them believe that the quality of the air students breathe directly impacts their health – a clear signal that healthy air in education is now a key part of these expectations14.  

Employees are equally concerned about the issue. So much so, that many now value the working environment ahead of benefits and salary15.What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-1

5. Boost operational efficiency and sustainability

Smart solutions that track levels of CO2 – which is emitted naturally by breathing – provide a detailed picture of occupancy in different parts of the building throughout the day. With this information, key operational decisions can be made based on real-time and historical data. For example:

  •     Energy efficiency is improved; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units are only switched on when classrooms, lecture halls or gyms are known to be in use.
  •       Cafeteria catering is closely aligned with actual student footfall each day to minimize waste.
  •       Cleaning schedules are coordinated to prioritize areas where high occupancy is recorded.
  •       Timetables are organized to make better use of available space.

What-are-the-rules-about-indoor-air-quality-in-workplaces-Inserts-4CONTACT US  Want to make sure the air in your school is healthy? 

6. Monitor air quality according to the recommendations

With so much attention on indoor air quality requirements, it is widely expected that new regulatory guidance will be introduced in the not too distant future. Already, we have seen growth in the Netherlands, where a ‘task force’ has been introduced to monitor indoor air quality in schools16, and air quality regulations are becoming stricter worldwide. Educational establishments would be well advised to proactively take action on this issue now and commit to an air quality strategy designed to safeguard the wellbeing of both staff and students.

Evidently, air quality, especially carbon dioxide levels, temperature and airborne chemicals should be monitored in an educational setting by a reliable system such as Airthings for Business solution. New call-to-action

Sources:

1.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031816-044420
2. epa.gov/iaq-schools/why-indoor-air-quality-important-schools
3.gwern.net/docs/co2/2015-stafford.pdf
4. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21029182/
5.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/Better%20Places%20for%20People%20-%20Schools%20Briefing%20Notes%20-IAQ.pdf
6.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/inside-story-health-effects-indoor-air-quality-children-young-people
7. ink.springer.com/epdf/10.1007/s00431-014-2288-4?shared_access_token=5JB_xa0uG7FD5uen-9eiSve4RwlQNchNByi7wbcMAY6hocqMd5aXw6L5I6iA6lbgpVDfP8Ht_iVzMNejK_wtZ0sQRPJomvNNixxziPcQsUOj85BdTw0iSsYWoep8gzdGOmXsdeooiuoTRaohmxiZXjO3ixPu_-WXuIP2QmLbEn
8.aafa.org/healthy-settings-schools-child-care-workplace-housing-restaurants-airlines/
9.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/Better%20Places%20for%20People%20-%20Schools%20Briefing%20Notes%20-IAQ.pdf
10. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21621987/
11.epa.gov/iaq-schools/why-indoor-air-quality-important-schools
12.iaqscience.lbl.gov/vent-absences
13.iaqscience.lbl.gov/vent-absences
13./elabe.fr/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/veolia_qai_ecoles_rapport_sept2019.pdf
14.hrnews.co.uk/keeping-up-with-the-millennials-a-third-of-employees-choose-jobs-based-on-the-office-environment/
15.po.lesopafstand.nl/lesopafstand/weer-op-school/