As schools begin to slowly reopen, stricter measures are now being implemented to protect students, teachers, and staff from the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes making improvements to indoor air quality.
In fact, the European government recently developed a law mandating schools and educational institutions to adopt carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring solutions to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus; this policy will be welcomed by many for the coming school terms.
But did you know that the importance of indoor air quality in schools stretches far beyond curbing coronavirus?
The importance of indoor air quality in schools
Clean and breathable air is essential to maintaining health. When air pollutants are present in an indoor space, the risk of short-term health problems such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and allergies are high. Continuous exposure to indoor air pollution can also lead to more serious issues such as asthma, lung cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Children are at greater risk of experiencing air pollution’s adverse effects due to their small, developing bodies, their activities, and behavior.
Indoor air quality isn’t just important to keep physical well-being, more and more studies show that indoor air quality can impact memory function. A report from a health journal in Washington revealed that exposure to nitrogen dioxide can decrease memory performance by 7.37%
Another report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that exposure to poor air quality negatively impacts children’s neurodevelopment. A school’s indoor environment also plays an important role in students’ academic performance as research from Science News for Students showed that students in stuffier classrooms did worse on tests than students did in buildings with fresher air.
Most common indoor air quality issues in schools
- Presence of outdoor air pollutants
Indoor air quality in schools is impacted by ambient air quality. Air pollutants from the outdoors can come inside built spaces without occupants noticing. Once inside, these pollutants settle and accumulate especially when there is no proper air circulation. Toxins and allergens in enclosed spaces can be 2 to 5 times higher, making students more vulnerable to illnesses. This can have a negative effect on their attendance and performance at school.
- Allergens and asthma stimulants
Schools are every student’s second home, but they can also be an ideal place for allergens and asthma triggers to grow and accumulate. Common causes of asthma and allergies in school include cockroaches and other pests, mold due to the excess moisture in the building, and particles from chalk.
- High levels of carbon dioxide
Students spend long periods of time in close proximity to each other, inside enclosed classrooms. This causes carbon dioxide levels to build up and the higher the concentration of CO2 is, the more polluted the air will become. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide have been linked to student absenteeism, sick building syndrome, and poor concentration. One research conducted among students aged 10 to 11 revealed that high levels of carbon dioxide can reduce the ability to focus by 5%, this is similar to the impact that a student might experience from skipping breakfast.
How to resolve IAQ problems in schools
- Ensure proper air circulation
Try opening windows and doors but be cautious when outdoor air quality is poor.
Proper air circulation helps eliminate air pollutants and regulate the concentrations of gasses before they become harmful. You can also use fans to remove virus particles from inside the classroom to the outside, but make sure not to leave fans unattended with young students.
- Practice cleanliness
Make sure to conduct regular wiping, dusting, and vacuuming to keep away from dust, mold, and other bacteria. Rugs and carpets shall be regularly washed and steam cleaned, and floors should be mopped to prevent pollutants from spreading in the air.
- Evaluate HVAC System
Is your school’s HVAC system still optimally functioning? How often do you conduct system inspections and maintenance? Does it effectively manage humidity levels? To make sure that your HVAC system is still capable of providing adequate ventilation, thermal comfort, and to guarantee that dust and dirt are not building up within the system, regular inspections shall be performed.
- Adopt indoor air quality tools for schools
One way to mitigate indoor air pollution in schools is to adopt solutions and technologies such as indoor air quality monitors. These indoor air quality tools for schools measure the presence and the levels of various pollutants including volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde, and more.
Having the right and timely information on the toxins present in the air, schools can create strategies and remediation efforts needed to improve air quality and prevent air pollution-related illnesses from occurring. There are advanced yet easy-to-use IAQ monitors available in the market, one of which is the uHoo Aura.
uHoo Aura is the most comprehensive indoor air monitoring device that tracks 13 pollutants such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, PM2.5, PM4, PM1, PM10, air pressure, light, sound, formaldehyde, and TVOCs. The device can be customized to additionally measure two more sensors namely nitrogen dioxide and ozone, or choose one sensor among sulfur dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia depending on their facility’s needs and requirements.
uHoo Aura comes with a Virus Index technology which measures the probability of viruses and harmful pathogens from growing and spreading within a built environment.
All the necessary data, trends, analytics, and tips can be viewed via the uHoo Business Dashboard which is accessible via desktop or mobile devices.
By implementing strategies and adopting indoor air quality tools for schools such as air quality monitoring devices, school management can not only protect students and staff from airborne viruses, but can also improve cognition, productivity, and academic performance.
An air pollution-free environment creates ideal places where both the students, staff, and teachers can grow and thrive.