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Indoor air quality in schools

Indoor air pollution in schools is of particular importance and is perceived critical in public and media.  According to the EPA, levels of indoor air pollutants may be two to five times higher, and in some cases, more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. Students are at greater risk because of the hours spent in school facilities. Children are especially at risk to health impacts of poor indoor air quality because their bodies are still developing.
The observed indoor air pollution in school can originate within the building or be drawn in from outdoors. The primary source of these pollutants is chemical emissions from interiour products such as furnishings, building materials and cleaning supplies.  Additionally, structural defects, mistakes in ventilation technology, improper ventilation behaviour can cause pollution. Also microbial problems (mould) play an important role in school buildings.
A complicating factor is that indoor air pollutant concentration levels can vary by:
  • Time (for example, weekly, during floor stripping); and
  • Location (within a school or even within a single classroom).
The effects of IAQ problems on school occupants—including staff, students, and others—are often non-specific symptoms (such as: headache, fatigue and shortness of
breath,  cough and sneezing, eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, dizziness and nausea) rather than clearly-defined illnesses.
Individuals that may be particularly susceptible to effects of indoor air contaminants include
people with:
  • Asthma, allergies, or chemical sensitivities
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Suppressed immune systems (due to radiation, chemotherapy, or disease)
  • Contact lenses
Implementation of a comprehensive indoor air quality maintenance program requires a high level of responsibility of school officials, facilities’ staff members, teachers, health care professionals, parents and students, and the local health department.