According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools continually places 10% (27.5 million people) of the US population at risk for health problems, such as coughing, eye irritation, headaches, asthma, allergies, and in rare cases Legionnaire’s disease, carbon monoxide poisoning and cancer. Among those most at risk are the more than six million students who have asthma.
One of the primary culprits are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from a wide variety of solvents, construction materials, textiles, furnishings, finishes, classroom supplies, consumer products, pesticides, fragrances, personal care products, and cleaning products and copy machines. Researchers are very concerned as results from a number of recent studies are demonstrating some very alarming trends:
•Children exposed to high levels of VOCs were four times more likely to develop asthma than adults (Rumchev et al 2004).
•Self-reported asthma prevalence in school children increased with increasing VOC levels (Delfino 2002).
•Small amounts of some environmental chemicals might have a dramatic effect on hormone levels, such as estrogen, which at high levels is associated with some forms of cancer and developmental problems during puberty (Waldman 2005, Rajapakse et al 2002).
•Teacher productivity and student learning, as measured by absenteeism, may be affected by indoor air quality (National Research Council 2006).
A new report from Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS), titled Reviewing and Refocusing on IAQ in Schools, summarizes these studies and offers some new resources that can help turn the tide towards healthier indoor learning environments. It can be downloaded at no cost under the White Paper tab of the Premium Content page of the AQS Aerias IAQ Resource Center.
Among the most promising is the tough new GREENGUARD Certification for Children & Schools˙, created by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI). This standard, which is an extension of the established GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification Programsm, takes the sensitive nature of children and the unique building characteristics and maintenance conditions found in daycare facilities and schools into consideration and presents the most rigorous product emissions criteria to date.
Air Quality Sciences, Inc. provides product evaluation testing for this program, using environmental chamber technology (ECT). This method allows a product to produce emissions similar to the way the product would emit in a school environment.
Measured emissions data are then used to determine exposure concentrations expected by use of the product in many different indoor environments, including schools. Exposure concentrations are used in various risk models to predict cancer and non-cancer health effects, including expected odor and irritation responses.
AQS has assisted numerous manufacturers in achieving GREENGUARD certification for products used in today’s schools, including classroom furniture, adhesives, flooring, thermal insulation and flooring, and stands ready to partner with the school districts to create and maintain healthy indoor environments.
For a listing of products that are certified to emit low levels of VOCs and more information on GREENGUARD Certification for Children & Schools, visit the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.