Health risks aren’t the only risk of indoor air pollution; studies show a troubling link between poor air quality in schools and diminished student performance
Schools can be a breeding ground for achievement and success. Unfortunately, they can also be a breeding ground for the negative consequences of poor indoor air quality.
Those consequences, as recent studies have shown, can be both numerous and perilous. Poor air quality in schools can lead not only to serious health problems, but to trouble concentrating, memory problems, and trouble performing tasks like calculations. It’s a situation, experts say, that calls for immediate — and effective — remedies, including high-performance air filtration and well-designed indoor air quality (IAQ) management programs.
Part of the problem is that the unique design and use of school buildings can exacerbate the impact of poor quality indoor air. Asthma, for example, is a well-known risk of indoor air pollution, but it is also a risk that grows as space becomes more densely packed with individuals. And educational facilities tend to be particularly densely populated.
Schools have four times as many people per area of floor space as a typical office building. Not surprisingly, but deeply troubling, asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism, accounting for some 15 million missed days each year.
Other factors also contribute to poor IAQ within schools. Locker rooms, darkrooms, labs, art rooms, and diesel school bus exhaust all make schools highly susceptible to poor indoor air — and its impact.
In recent years, the health effects of poor IAQ have been gaining increased attention. Air pollution — both indoor and outdoor — has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and serious respiratory conditions. In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer — an arm of the World Health Organization — classified air pollution as a Group 1 human carcinogen. WHO estimates that indoor air pollution — the result of harmful particles within indoor environments, as well as outdoor pollutants that seep inside — was responsible for some 4.3 million deaths worldwide in 2012.
Now, the impact poor IAQ has on individual performance — especially in a school setting — is becoming better understood, as well. Multiple studies link student performance to IAQ. Research is showing that students in schools with good IAQ score 12 to 14 percent higher on standardized tests than students in poor IAQ schools.
Poor indoor air quality is a problem that can be tackled — and tackled quickly, effectively, and affordably. Schools should be developing, and implementing, IAQ management programs, and looking to technology that can dramatically improve air quality. Cutting-edge solutions are already here — and making a difference.
Poor indoor air quality may raise troubling concerns for school-age children and their parents. But with a proactive, modern approach to IAQ, schools can reduce the risks — and help students meet their full potential.