I’ve written quite a bit now about air quality and how it affects the health of workers and commuters. I’ve even touched on how you can improve air quality in your home. The idea I’m trying to promote is that by improving air quality in the places you spend the most time, the effect of dirty air on your health can be mitigated.
But consider where your children spend most of their time: at home and at school. You can, of course, do a lot to keep the air they breathe at home clean, but what about school?
I don’t have children, but the parents I know care about their children’s health more than their own. They do what they can to make them healthy. For most families, that involves making sure the kids eat right, see a doctor when needed, and so forth. Care is usually taken so their children don’t breathe air that could be dangerous, too. But what about when kids are away from their parents at school?
Kids spend a lot of time at school, so it’s good to think about what they’re breathing while hitting the books. Here’s a short list of health problems caused or exacerbated by poor indoor air quality:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Sinus problems
Potential sources of pollutants include, but are by no means limited to:
- HVAC systems
- Radon gas
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from office or classroom equipment
The third item in that list is interesting because it includes so many different items. Lab supplies, paint for art class, chalk, glue, copy and print supplies, dry-erase markers, cleaning supplies and so on. When you think about it, schools are chock-full of chemicals.
Don’t forget the school bus, where the time spent riding can be significant; I lost two hours a day to the bus. Your child’s asthma or allergies can be worsened by exposure to diesel exhaust, and the inside of the bus has its own fumes that can cause health problems.
Children are especially susceptible to health problems resulting from poor air quality. One in 13 school-age kids has asthma, which is the chronic illness that causes the most absenteeism. The growing bodies of children are at greater risk since they breathe more, eat more, and drink more for their size than do adults.
What can you do?
If you see the need for your children’s school to improve the air quality, what can you do? The same thing you should do at work: get involved. Problems that aren’t reported or talked about have a tendency to stick around, and the ones that are discussed have a tendency to be resolved.
How exactly can you get involved? There are many ways. I encourage you to read the EPA’s information on creating healthy air quality in schools. In addition to the basic information on why air quality in schools is so important, you’ll find a variety of materials that can help school administrators and parents keep the air clean.
One reason this blog exists is to motivate you to do something about air quality. For many people, the negative health effects of polluted air move them to do something about the air they breathe at work or at home. That’s not enough to motivate others, who feel there’s little they can do to keep the air clean outside of their home. But what parent isn’t moved to do something to keep their kids healthy? If you have kids, or have young relatives as I do, make it your business to know what their school is doing to keep the air clean for students and employees. Cleaner air at schools is another important step towards clean air for everyone.
- It surprised me that OSHA has a section on air-quality at schools. I guess people work at schools. Who knew?
- The Minnesota Department of Health has a nice section devoted to air quality at schools. Take note of the indoor air quality actions at the bottom, especially the one for parents.