The back-to-school period has commenced, and this means that students will start returning to their places of learning. It also means that students and teachers alike will be exposed to the conditions brought about by indoor air quality (IAQ). The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that almost all schools have higher levels of indoor air pollution than outdoor air pollution. This can be attributed to the use of chemical cleaners and pesticides in classrooms, as well as the use of carpets and other materials that off-gas volatile organic compounds. The EPA has developed a model for assessing indoor air quality in schools, which includes an assessment of ventilation rates, room occupancy rates, and pollutant sources such as paints and adhesives. The EPA recommends that schools have at least 50% outdoor ventilation rates to maintain good indoor air quality.
Why is Air Quality Important for Health?
Air quality is a key factor in the health of a person. It is important because it can affect the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and many other bodily processes. The quality of air varies from location to location. Factors such as pollution, temperature, humidity, and altitude all play a role in how clean the air is in that area. The cleaner the air, the better the environment for humans to live in. Air pollutants can cause problems with breathing and heart rate which are two major contributors to health issues and death rates around the world. Pollution levels also affect how quickly someone will heal from an injury or illness because it affects their immune system as well as their ability to fight off infection.
Indoor Air Quality in Schools and Classrooms
Indoor air quality is a big concern in schools and classrooms. The quality of air inside the building can have an impact on the student’s health and learning. Air pollution indoors can worsen asthma, allergies, and other conditions. The EPA has reported that indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. This pollution is caused by sources such as dust mites, mould, bacteria, pet dander, pesticides from nearby farms or yards, adhesives from carpeting and vinyl flooring, volatile organic compounds from paints or newly constructed furniture made with materials like particle board or MDF (medium density fibreboard) that emit formaldehyde. Specific concentrations of these pollutants, combined with ventilation rates, have been linked to what is known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), the symptoms of which include:
- Dry and itchy skin
- Sore throat
- Nasal stuffiness and dry throat
- Dryness, pain and itching in the eye
The benefits of Improved Air Quality in Schools
The benefits of improved indoor air quality in schools are numerous. It has been shown to improve student performance and attendance, increase the time students spend on-task and reduce the need for teachers to intervene in order to maintain order.
Some of the benefits of improved indoor air quality in schools are:
- Improved student performance and attendance
- Increased time students spend on-task
- Reduced need for teachers to intervene
How to Improve Air Quality in Schools
The air quality in schools is not up to the mark. A study conducted by the World Health Organization concluded that about 90% of all the world’s children are exposed to high levels of outdoor air pollution. The major sources of pollution are vehicles, industrial emissions, and open cooking fires. Air quality can be improved in schools through better ventilation and air conditioning systems. The school should also have a smoke-free campus to reduce the amount of second-hand smoke exposure. It is important to monitor indoor air quality because it can affect students’ health and learning ability. The best way to monitor indoor air quality is to measure CO2 levels, temperature, humidity levels and other pollutants like volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
Why are Green Schools better for Indoor Air Quality?
A green school is one that has a healthy indoor air quality. The first step to achieving this goal is to design the school in such a way that it does not produce any hazardous substances. The green schools are more energy efficient and use renewable sources of energy, which helps them reduce their carbon footprint. They also have improved indoor air quality as compared to traditional schools. Green schools provide students with a healthy environment that encourages learning and creativity while also having a positive impact on the environment because they reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, green schools are often quieter than traditional schools, which can help students focus on their work. A truly green school will achieve good indoor air quality and low carbon emission by way of the following means:
- Natural ventilation can refresh indoor air without reliance on additional energy consumption – although this requires the availability of good outdoor air quality
- Hybrid or mechanical ventilation with appropriate filtration systems ideally powered by onsite/offsite renewable energy for lower carbon emissions
- Low or zero- VOC (volatile organic compound) furnishings, including materials and cleaning products – all of which reduce baseline levels of IAQ
There are no overnight solutions to the challenges we face – both in terms of outdoor and indoor air quality. Green schools, while proving effective and increasing in popularity, aren’t available to students across the board. The immediate solution? The Cambridge Mask. Unlike other masks, the Cambridge Mask PRO contains military-grade activated carbon cloth as well as silver thread in the filament surface. Together with the anti-bacterial silver, the carbon cloth first traps any bacteria and then draws out the gel-like cytoplasm inside - killing it and preventing infection. This back-to-school season, make sure your children are carrying the best solution to indoor air quality and pollution.