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National Healthy Schools Day: What About Air Quality?

Posted on April 08, 2014
by Wendy Stackhouse

Today is National Healthy Schools Day and good indoor air quality is a basic ingredient in a healthy school for both students and teachers!

Many of the same substances that plague our indoor air at home can affect the air quality at school, including:

  • Volatile organic compounds from paint, adhesives and cleaning products
  • Mold
  • Dust
  • Car exhaust from buses and cars dropping off and picking up students
  • Pollen from plants on campus
  • Air fresheners
  • Personal fragrances
  • Hand Sanitizer

Teachers can help improve the indoor air quality for themselves and for their students:

1. Open the windows–Let some air in to move some of the contaminants collecting in your classroom out.

2. Don’t block the ducts–Classrooms today are crowded with people and backpacks. Make sure you don’t put anything in front of the vents or ducts that help keep the air circulating throughout the building.

3. Keep the classroom clean–Especially in elementary school, pillows and carpets used for “storytime” and similar activities can get dirty, dusty and even harbor dust mites.

4. Report leaks immediately–If your classroom has a leak or any water damage, be sure to get it fixed before a mold problem can take root. Mold spores are everywhere, just waiting for a damp spot to make their home.

5. Classroom Pets can trigger allergies or asthma–If you have a class pet, be sure to keep its enclosure scrupulously clean. Dander can affect any child who is allergic and make it more difficult for them to learn.

6. Minimize air fresheners and other odor concealing products–Teenagers can all use better personal hygiene, but air fresheners are adding pollution to your indoor air and just masking the less pleasant odors. Encourage the children to wear (unscented) deodorant and try to resist the impulse to spray!

What about parents?

1. Be observant–When you are visiting your child’s school campus, take a walk. If you see any water damage, cluttered areas, odors or dirty carpeting, make sure that you let someone know it needs to be taken care of.

2. Keep track of small complaints–Ask your child how they are feeling when you pick them up, as well as what they have for homework. If they feel sick or dizzy at school but better at home, they might forget to tell you.

3. Be informed–Find out what cleaning products are used at your school and recommend greener options that are less likely to trigger allergies or asthma attacks if necessary.

4. Be communicative–If your child has sensitivities or if you have any concerns about the environment at your school, don’t keep them to yourself. Your efforts to improve the indoor environment could make a difference to every single child and teacher.

Poor indoor air quality can affect student performance and everyone’s health, young or old. It’s easy to forget about how essential healthy breathing is for all of us, but it is an important factor in a Healthy School today and every day!

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