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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Schools

American School Building

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality within and around buildings and structures, including schools. Most people are aware that poor air quality outdoors can impact their health, but poor indoor air quality can also cause adverse health effects. Research suggests that most people spend up to 90% of their time indoors. Something as simple as maintaining optimal temperature and relative humidity levels can help keep an indoor environment well-balanced.

In the most basic terms, good indoor air quality (IAQ) management includes:

  • Control of airborne pollutants
  • Introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air
  • Maintenance of acceptable temperature and relative humidity

Why is IAQ Important?

Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental risks to public health. Good IAQ is an important component of a healthy indoor environment and can help schools reach their primary goal – educating children.

Failure to prevent or respond promptly to IAQ problems can increase the likelihood of coughing, eye irritation, and headaches for students and staff. It can also cause allergic reactions and aggravate asthma. Nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age has asthma. There is evidence that indoor environmental exposure to allergens such as dust mites, pests, and molds plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms. Unfortunately, these allergens are very common in schools. The EPA asserts that proper maintenance of indoor air is more than a “quality” issue, it encompasses safety and stewardship of the district’s investment in students, staff, and facilities.

Good IAQ contributes to a favorable environment for students, teachers, and staff alike. Let’s explore some key reasons why maintaining good indoor air quality in schools is important:

  • Health and Well-Being: Clean air is essential for maintaining good health. Poor IAQ can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, asthma exacerbations, and other health issues in students and staff. Ensuring optimal IAQ helps reduce the risk of illness and absenteeism.
  • Academic Performance: Good IAQ can positively affect cognitive function and academic performance. Students and teachers can concentrate better in classrooms with fresh air, leading to improved learning outcomes.
  • Productivity and Comfort: Comfortable and healthy environments promote productivity and a positive learning atmosphere. Proper ventilation and air quality control systems help maintain comfortable temperature and humidity levels, reducing discomfort and distractions while improving concentration and focus.
  • Reduced Absenteeism: Optimal IAQ can reduce the transmission of infectious diseases, leading to fewer absences for both students and staff. This can help maintain a consistent and effective learning environment.
  • Community Engagement: Parents and the local community often place a high value on the health and well-being of students. Schools that prioritize indoor air quality are more likely to receive support and positive feedback from parents and the community.

IAQ Tools for Schools Resources Optimal Indoor Air Quality in Schools

Make indoor air quality (IAQ) a priority in your school by implementing an IAQ management program. Find tools and resources from EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools program to develop and sustain an effective and comprehensive program using simple, low-cost actions to help save money, improve health, and decrease student and staff absenteeism.

IAQ Tools for Schools materials have been implemented successfully in tens of thousands of schools nationwide. Check out these helpful resources:

Hillmann Can Help

With nearly 40 years of experience in Environmental Health & Safety and Building Sciences, our team has a vast knowledge of Indoor Air Quality. Hillmann excels at balancing science and business. We provide value by listening first, then seeking the most effective solutions that best serve your needs. Our team is keenly driven to get the science and engineering correct and present it in the right context. Together, we’re making a better future for all the communities we touch. Contact us anytime to learn more about how we can help the schools in your district achieve optimal IAQ.