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Healthy Schools - Indoor Air Quality

ceiling air vent
EPA_Indoor_Air_link_graphic

Why is indoor air quality important to student health?

Students, teachers and staff who have breathing difficulties are at increased risk of respiratory stress or asthma attacks when outdoor air quality is bad.   

Air pollution reduces air quality and thus is a major risk to health.  Air pollution causes to a number of health concerns such as asthma, allergies, lung disease, anxiety and depression.  Young children, teenagers and people with preexisting respiratory medical conditions are especially vulnerable to air pollution.

The types and amount of air pollution you may breathe will vary by your location, the time of day, the temperature and the weather.

Some sources of air pollution are natural such as smoke from wildfires, pollen from plants, dander from pets, or spores from molds.  Many sources of air pollution are of our own making such as air pollution from burning coal, driving cars and trucks, and incinerating garbage.

How can air pollution affect students?

Air pollution problems in schools can increase long- and short-term health problems for students.  Good indoor air quality is an important piece to a healthy indoor environment and can help schools complete their primary goal of educating children.  Failure to have good indoor air quality can lead to health problems such as: 

·         Asthma attacks
·         Wheezing and cough
·         Shortness of breath
·         Headaches
·         Eye irritation
·         Shortness of breath
·         Susceptibility to infections

The EPA’s Indoor Air Quality in Schools webpage provides information and resources to maintain and improve indoor air quality in schools.  Proper maintenance of heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) systems is key to maintaining good indoor air quality.  Controlling moisture and pests are important to minimize allergens from mold or insects.  Testing schools for radon and the use of carbon monoxide detectors near combustion sources like boilers, stoves, or water heaters can protect children and faculty from invisible dangers.  Using EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit will help ensure good indoor air quality in your school.

School indoor air quality is important for children with asthma.  Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the breathing airways caused by triggers such as allergens, irritants, and respiratory infections.  Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing.  Asthma can be controlled by minimizing asthma triggers in the environment.  Keeping classrooms clean and well ventilated will help minimize asthma triggers.  As will avoiding the use of harsh chemical cleaners or pesticides.  Parents are encouraged to provide the child’s teacher and school nurse an asthma action plan.  The Nation Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has many resources for students, parents, faculty and custodians about keeping schools asthma friendly.  The Also visit CDC’s Tools for Asthma Control webpage.

EPA Tools for Schools Toolkit

EPA Tools for Schools Toolkit

The U.S. Environmental protection Agency's Tools for Schools program has long been a standard in providing school officials helpful tools for maintaining good indoor air quality.  Their toolkit is available for download and is available as a mobile app.

A framework of technical solutions that defines the most common issues that schools need to address to effectively manage indoor air quality risks is provided in the toolkit.AN indoor air quality program focusing on the seven technical solutions will deliver a healthier school environment.  The 7 technical solutions are:

•         Quality heating, ventilation and air conditioning
•         Control of moisture and mold
•         Strong integrated pest management
•         Effective cleaning and maintenance
•         Smart materials selection
•         Aggressive source control
•         Integrated energy management solutions

EPA Preventative Maintenance Guidance

School officials can prevent many issues from becoming costly problems through preventative maintenance with thoughtful planning and regular maintenance for buildings and facilities.  EPA's Preventative Maintenence Guidance  will walk you through straight forward steps to develop and implement a sustainable indoor air quality preventative maintenance plan.

EPA Healthy Schools Master Class

School officials interact with all members of the school community, including building staff, administrative staff, teachers, students, parents, local government officials and many others. That puts them in an ideal position to be leaders and share basic information about creating healthy indoor school environments, including managing indoor air quality, or IAQ, with everyone who can work to make a difference. Maintaining good IAQ requires a coordinated management approach that provides for building occupant education and establishes some routine inspection and maintenance policies.

EPA has a series of 10 webinars for school administrators and maintenance staff to become versed in the comprehensive management of indoor air quality in schools.  The webinars range from Creating healthy indoor air environments in schools to Energy efficiency to Controlling pollution sources in your school district.

The webinars allow the identification, recognition, and ways to address indoor environmental asthma triggers and employ actions to effectively manage asthma in schools.  They also show how to develop a comprehensive asthma management plan to reducing asthma attacks, increase attendance, and improve academic performance.    

What is an asthma-friendly school?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative provides a framework and tools that communities and schools can use to work together on a comprehensive approach to asthma management, including planning tools, policy recommendations, and education programs.

The American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative was created through a cooperative agreement with the CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health. The effort began with a December 2001 conference that pooled the experience and insight of a range of professionals with expertise in asthma, health education and promotion, community organization, school health, environmental health and program management.  This group of experts recommended a comprehensive set of strategies for creating an asthma-friendly school. They also encouraged the American Lung Association to develop a resource that focused on the role that communities could play in helping their schools with planning and implementation. Out of this conference came the Asthma-Friendly Schools Toolkit.

The Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit is a planning tool based on real-life activities that have been used in schools throughout the U.S. to create comprehensive asthma management systems. The Toolkit is based on the premise that a successful Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative must be grounded in a structured planning process that includes coalition building, community-wide input, action planning and ongoing support. The process and details in the Toolkit provide in-depth planning and activities that are complementary to the CDC's Strategies for Addressing Asthma within a Coordinated School Health Program.  Each community, coalition, organization and school is different and will need to create a custom long-term planning process based on their particular needs. The Toolkit allows and encourages groups to design a plan that is specific to their community needs and resources.

In asthma-friendly schools, staff and students support students with asthma and help them better control it.  Programs are put into place to educate all students about what asthma is, how to manage it, what the triggers are, and cures.  The programs also maintain access to life-saving medications.  Schools also evaluate their cleaning procedures and adapt policies to reduce triggers and create a safe and healthy environment.  Asthma action plans are developed for students with asthma that are given to each teacher and coach a student has.  The school nurse is highly aware of each student with asthma in an asthma-friendly school.

The asthma-friendly schools initiative helps schools achieve their main goal-education of all students in the school.  The strategies and materials presented in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative will help schools implement the within a Coordinated School Health Program. The key components to effective school asthma management include attention to the following principles:

•         Health & Mental Health Services
•         Asthma Education
•         Healthy Environments
•         Physical Education and Activity

EPA Mold Remediation in Schools booklet cover

What about mold in a school?

Molds grow well in warm, wet places.  With damp conditions molds can grow indoors.  If a school classroom, portable or locker room is showing signs of mold, there is likely a need for maintainance.  In addition, it is important the school communicate how it's cleaning up mold to students and parents.

There are several resources available to help school officials keep up with preventative maintaince to avoid mold problems.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's  Tools for Schools program has been around for many years.  These resources can be downloaded.  There is also an app available on the Apple Store these days.  EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit goes step-by-step through best practices, guidelines and policies for improving and maintaining indoor air quality in schools.

When it comes to cleaning up mold, the key is finding the water leak.  Leaking water pipes, roofs, gutters, windows, toilets or draings can quickly puddle a lot of water.  Rain running off of landscaping, hills and parking lots can flood building foundations.  Portable classrooms can have moisture issues, too.  Whatever the source of water, it needs to be fixed first.  Then whatever materials are waterlogged and moldy should be discarded.  After everything is dried out, repairs can be made.  EPA's Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings is the go-to guide.  Tables 1 is a great quick reference.

 

What is an asthma-friendly school?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative provides a framework and tools that communities and schools can use to work together on a comprehensive approach to asthma management, including planning tools, policy recommendations, and education programs.

The American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative was created through a cooperative agreement with the CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health. The effort began with a December 2001 conference that pooled the experience and insight of a range of professionals with expertise in asthma, health education and promotion, community organization, school health, environmental health and program management.  This group of experts recommended a comprehensive set of strategies for creating an asthma-friendly school. They also encouraged the American Lung Association to develop a resource that focused on the role that communities could play in helping their schools with planning and implementation. Out of this conference came the Asthma-Friendly Schools Toolkit.

The Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit is a planning tool based on real-life activities that have been used in schools throughout the U.S. to create comprehensive asthma management systems. The Toolkit is based on the premise that a successful Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative must be grounded in a structured planning process that includes coalition building, community-wide input, action planning and ongoing support. The process and details in the Toolkit provide in-depth planning and activities that are complementary to the CDC's Strategies for Addressing Asthma within a Coordinated School Health Program.  Each community, coalition, organization and school is different and will need to create a custom long-term planning process based on their particular needs. The Toolkit allows and encourages groups to design a plan that is specific to their community needs and resources.

In asthma-friendly schools, staff and students support students with asthma and help them better control it.  Programs are put into place to educate all students about what asthma is, how to manage it, what the triggers are, and cures.  The programs also maintain access to life-saving medications.  Schools also evaluate their cleaning procedures and adapt policies to reduce triggers and create a safe and healthy environment.  Asthma action plans are developed for students with asthma that are given to each teacher and coach a student has.  The school nurse is highly aware of each student with asthma in an asthma-friendly school.

The asthma-friendly schools initiative helps schools achieve their main goal-education of all students in the school.  The strategies and materials presented in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative will help schools implement the within a Coordinated School Health Program. The key components to effective school asthma management include attention to the following principles:

•         Health & Mental Health Services
•         Asthma Education
•         Healthy Environments
•         Physical Education and Activity

Government partners

Environmental Protection Agency
Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids
www.epa.gov/schools
Creating Healthy Indoor Air Quality in Schools
www.epa.gov/iaq-schools
Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings Guide
www.epa.gov/mold/mold-remediation-schools-and-commercial-buildings-guide                                                     
Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools                                                                                                                         
www.epa.gov/iaq-schools/indoor-air-quality-tools-schools-preventive-maintenance-guidance-documents

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Asthma in Schools
www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/asthma/index.htm                                                                                                           
Cleaning, Disinfection, and Hand Hygiene in Schools Toolkit for School Administrators  CDC   
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/clean-disinfect-hygiene.html

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Indoor Air Quality - Self-inspection Checklist
www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-101/chklists/6indoo~1.htm

Other partners

American Lung Association
Healthy Air in Schools
www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/in-schools
Asthma-friendly Schools Initiative
www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/asthma-education-advocacy/asthma-friendly-schools-initiative

 

Additional resources  

Berkekey Labs
Indoor Air Quality - Scientific Findings Resource Bank
iaqscience.lbl.gov/topics

ASHRAE 
ASHRAE IAQ Guide                                                                                                                                                                             
iaq-guide-primer-from-the-may-2010.pdf (ashrae.org)

New Jersey Department of Health
Guidance on Air Cleaning Devices for New Jersey Schools