Do you know what the indoor air is like at your school?
Indoor air quality has a clear impact on our health and our ability to concentrate and learn. Children are usually more sensitive than adults because their organs develop throughout childhood. They eat, drink and breathe more in relation to their body size, therefore they also risk a higher exposure to various environmental factors than adults.
Problems linked to poor indoor air
We spend about 90% of our time indoors, which is why indoor environments are so important for our health and well-being. “Indoor levels of air pollutants can be 2-5 times higher, and occasionally 100 times higher, than outdoor levels. Nearly 55 million people, 20 percent of the U.S. population, spend their days inside elementary and secondary schools. According to a 1995 federal government report, an estimated 50 percent of the nation’s schools have problems linked to poor indoor air quality.” 1
In many countries around the globe, the school situation is similar. In Sweden, to mention one more example, one out of 5 schools has problems with bad indoor air. It’s alarming for two reasons – our future is sitting in the classrooms, and the school is also Sweden’s largest workplace.
World Green Building Council calls for green buildings for everyone, everywhere. Schools being no exception. They believe that thoughtful school design and operation can improve indoor air quality and improve student health and performance. And that it most often can be done without increasing greenhouse gas emissions2. Some effects indoor air quality has on children’s performance at school
- In a study of 100 US elementary classrooms, there was a 2.9% and 2.7% increase in math and reading scores, respectively, for each litre per second per person increase in ventilation rates
- Higher ventilation rates have been associated with faster and more accurate student responses for colour, picture memory and word recognition
- Every 100 ppm increase in CO2 was associated to roughly one-half day per year reduction in school attendance
All children have the right to a school with good indoor air!
A modern ventilation system is often self-regulating and increases or decreases ventilation as needed. Older systems do not have that capability. But what if there was a display, or a Siri “school assistant”, in each classroom that announced when it was time to increase ventilation. And if that possibility does not exist, it could announce that it is time to take a break, or simply open the window and ventilate.
So, one step in the right direction would be that we start measuring the air quality so that we actually know what it is like and be able to take right actions.
Do you know how your school is breathing?