About IAQ Schools
Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can impact their health, but indoor air pollution can also have significant and harmful health effects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Good IAQ management includes:
- Control of airborne pollutants;
- Introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air; and
- Maintenance of acceptable temperature and relative humidity.
Good IAQ is an important component of a healthy indoor environment and can help schools reach their primary goal of educating children. Failure to prevent or respond promptly to IAQ problems can:
- Increase long- and short-term health problems for students and staff such as:
- Eye irritation
- Allergic reactions, and
- in rarer cases, life-threatening conditions such as Legionnaire’s disease, or carbon monoxide poisoning
- Aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age has asthma, the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. There is substantial evidence that indoor environmental exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, pests and molds, plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms. These allergens are common in schools. There is also evidence that exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses and other vehicles exacerbates asthma and allergies. These problems can:
- Impact student attendance, comfort and performance.
- Reduce teacher and staff performance.
- Accelerate the deterioration and reduce the efficiency of the school’s physical plant and equipment.
- Increase potential for school closings or relocation of occupants.
- Strain relationships among school administration, parents and staff.
- Create negative publicity.
- Impact community trust.
- Create liability problems.
For more information, see Indoor Air Quality.