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What You Can Do to Improve Academic Performance

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Watch for Symptoms of Indoor Air Quality Issues

Building occupants often associate health symptoms they experience with poor environments, especially since most Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. However, determining if health symptoms relate to indoor air quality (IAQ) problems can be difficult. Acute, or short-term, symptoms of IAQ problems are typically similar to cold, allergy and flu symptoms. The symptoms below may be an indication of underlying IAQ issues; however, it is always advisable to consult a medical professional.

  • Chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Diagnosed infection or clusters of serious health problems
  • Dizziness
  • Eye, nose and throat problems (congestion, swelling, itching or irritation)
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness or lethargy
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sinus congestion
  • Skin irritation
  • Sneezing.

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Determine if You Have an IAQ Problem

Familiarize yourself with the typical sources of indoor air pollutants. Although it is not easy to link health symptoms to IAQ issues, the following clues may suggest that IAQ problems are the source:

  • Symptoms are widespread within a classroom or area of the school.
  • Symptoms disappear when students and staff leave the school building.
  • Onset of symptoms is sudden after a change made at the school, such as building renovation, pesticide application, painting, changes in cleaning practices, etc.
  • People with allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivities have reactions indoors but not outdoors.

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Take Action to Ensure that Schools Are Well-Maintained

When school budgets are tight, school boards and school administrators often consider the maintenance budget as "soft money," an expense they can cut without affecting the core academic program needs. Indeed, the percentage of school budgets dedicated to maintenance has declined over the past two decades. Yet a good maintenance program is integral to ensuring that school health and academic programs achieve their fullest potential. In addition, an effective maintenance program can reduce both energy costs and long-term repair costs.

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Establish an IAQ Management Program

Poor IAQ often results from neglect. Take a proactive stance to managing potential IAQ hazards by demanding regular and proper maintenance of indoor environments and HVAC systems. Programs can be targeted to the maintenance of existing school facilities and to new school construction.

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Coordinate or Integrate Health, Environmental and Maintenance Programs into a Unified Effort

Highly coordinated and integrated programs can save resources and improve results from all programs, and can be a key driver of improved academic performance.

EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools guidance has published voluntary guidance that addresses IAQ for school districts. By applying approaches outlined in the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, schools can find cost-effective approaches for making the school environment more conducive to teacher and student health and performance. The IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit is free to schools and school districts.

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