Understanding how to improve indoor air quality in schools is a critical aspect of ensuring the health, well-being, and productivity of students and staff. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside schools can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. Poor air quality can lead to a range of health problems, such as respiratory issues and allergies, as well as lower academic performance. Therefore, it's essential to identify and continuously monitor the sources of air pollution in schools to improve air quality.
This blog explores the importance of indoor air quality in schools and provides steps for monitoring and improving air quality.
The Importance of Air Quality in Schools and Student Achievement
Several studies have found a link between indoor air quality and academic performance. For example, a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that improving indoor air quality in classrooms improved academic performance by up to 15% in some cases.
Poor air quality can lead to a range of health issues that can affect students' concentration and cognitive abilities, ultimately resulting in lower academic performance. Additionally, students who suffer from allergies or asthma can experience symptoms that can cause them to miss school or struggle with their studies, scoring up to 10% lower on days with especially low air quality.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness. Understanding how to implement measures that can help alleviate symptoms of this condition could mean the difference between a student who wants to come to school and a student who doesn’t.
Common Indoor Pollutants Impacting Air Quality in Schools
Several pollutants can impact indoor air quality in schools, including mold, pollen, dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as carbon monoxide and dioxide.
In schools, mold can be caused by moisture problems, such as leaks or high humidity levels. Pollen can enter schools through open windows or doors and can also be brought in on clothing or backpacks. Dust can come from various sources, including outdoor air, carpets, and school supplies. VOCs can also come from a range of sources, including cleaning products, paint, adhesives, and furniture.
Carbon dioxide accumulates in poorly ventilated areas where the air isn’t being efficiently circulated; this is an especially important consideration in schools where students and staff spend most of their time in classrooms without windows. Real-time CO2 monitoring can help mitigate this risk. Carbon monoxide can come from malfunctioning or poorly maintained HVAC systems, gas stoves or heaters, and idling cars outside the school.
Steps for Air Quality Monitoring in Schools
Regular visual inspections of HVAC systems can help identify any issues that may affect air quality. These inspections can include checking for leaks or damage to the ductwork, ensuring that filters are clean and functioning correctly, and ensuring that the system is balanced and providing proper ventilation. A well-maintained HVAC improves air quality, and can also significantly affect energy efficiency in schools.
Installing indoor air quality monitors and sensors can provide real-time information on the air quality in different areas of the school. These monitors can detect the presence of the various pollutants mentioned previously, as well as provide information on temperature and humidity levels. Conducting air quality tests can also help identify any specific pollutants that may be present. These tests can include measuring particulate matter, mold, or other specific pollutants.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Schools
Once you’ve identified the sources and severity of air pollution in the school, you can take the following steps to improve indoor air quality in schools.
- Keep the school clean and well-ventilated to reduce the buildup of pollutants and carbon dioxide. This can include regular cleaning and dusting, using doormats to trap dirt and dust, and opening windows to increase ventilation.
- Maintain HVAC systems properly to ensure that they are functioning correctly and not introducing pollutants into the air. This can include regular filter changes, cleaning ductwork, and ensuring that the system is properly balanced.
- Use air purifiers and air filters to reduce the concentration of pollutants in the air. For example, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove small particles from the air, while activated carbon filters can remove VOCs.
- Use UV-C disinfection devices to provide additional protection and defend against errors in the manual disinfection process, UV-C can be used to disinfect surfaces and equipment following manual chemical disinfection.
- Curtail the use of harmful chemicals in the school, such as cleaning agents or pesticides, to reduce the concentration of VOCs in the air.
What to Remember about Improving Air Quality in Schools
In summary, indoor air quality in schools is essential for ensuring the health, well-being, and productivity of students and staff. Poor air quality can lead to a range of health problems and lower academic performance. Therefore, regular monitoring and taking steps to improve air quality in schools are crucial. NetX offers a range of products, such as thermostats and sensors, that can help schools improve their indoor air quality.