During the past month, a number of news articles have reported on the spike in the number of asthma attacks among elementary school age children in the early fall. These articles also highlight asthma tips from the American Lung Association to help parents get their children ready for the new school year. What these articles do not address is the significant role poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools plays in triggering asthma attacks or what should be done to minimize indoor air pollutants.
“According the US Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 50% of US schools have indoor air quality problems. Consider that 20% of the US population (55 million people) spends a good part of their day in schools, then it follows that schools with poor IAQ are putting 10% (27.5 million) people at risk for health problems, including the 6 million children in this country with asthma,” said Marilyn S. Black, PhD, chairman and chief scientist of Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS). The National Research Council underscores this concern in its review and assessment of the health and productivity benefits of green schools. Specifically, the National Research Council found “a robust body of evidence indicating that the health of children and adults can be affected by air quality in a school,” and “a growing body of evidence [suggesting] that teacher productivity and student learning, as measured by absenteeism, may be affected by indoor air quality as well.”
The California Air Resources Board reached a similar conclusion in its 2005 report to the California Legislature on the quality of indoor air in that state. A new AQS research report takes this issue head on by reviewing which indoor pollutants in schools are of most concern, how poor IAQ impacts children’s health and ability to learn, and some exciting new strategies and resources that can help turn the tide towards healthier indoor learning environments.
Among the information presented are the results of AQS measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in more than 100 schools, providing a clear picture of the most common types of VOCs found in schools and their sources. Some VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation; cough; headache; general flu-like illnesses; skin irritation; and some can cause cancer. Others produce odors that may be objectionable.
A summary of the new, tough GREENGUARD Certification for Children & Schools˙ standard also is discussed. Because a key strategy for reducing VOCs is to use products and construction materials that emit low levels of these chemical compounds, this standard takes the sensitive nature of school populations and the unique building characteristics and maintenance conditions found in schools into consideration and presents the most rigorous product emissions criteria to date.
“Much of the material presented in the report is available in the scientific literature, but is not always easily accessible or easy to understand. Our hope in providing this research report is to emphasize the scope of the problem, explain it and offer in one place a list of valuable resources in hopes that more parents and school districts will take up the challenge and insist that all schools provide a healthy learning environment,” Dr. Black said. “Reviewing and Refocusing on IAQ in Schools,” is available at no charge from the Aerias-AQS IAQ Resource Center website, under the White Paper tab of the Premium Content page.
Air Quality Sciences, Inc. is a fully integrated indoor air quality (IAQ) company that provides solutions to create healthy indoor environments and avoid potentially dangerous indoor pollution. As an IAQ firm with internal labs that are both ISO 9001:2000 registered and AIHA EMLAP accredited, AQS works toward effective diagnoses and solutions. AQS also is a test laboratory for both the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute and the Blue Angel Labeling programs, which provide independent, third party certification for low-emitting products used indoors.