June 7, 2022
How Can Schools Improve Air Quality?
Most people are aware of the serious damages that can come from outdoor air pollution, but indoor pollution can have equally damaging health implications. Medical and environmental studies of human exposure to pollutants show that indoor pollutants might be 2-5 times, and at times, up to 100 times more than outdoor levels. This has become a huge concern for schools because students spend most of their school time indoors. So, how can schools improve air quality?
Keep reading as we dig deeper into the subject of air quality in schools. This post demonstrates why air quality is so important in school, establishes the main sources of pollutants, and finally outlines the sustainable practice options that can be used to improve it.
Why Is Air Quality in Schools So Important?
Before looking at the best solutions for improving air quality in schools, let’s start by answering the big question, “why is this important?”
Poor Air Quality Has Serious Health Implications
According to UNICEF and EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB), indoor air pollution is among the top five major risks to public health in many countries. Childhood exposure can result in chronic respiratory challenges, such as lung cancer and asthma.
Further research indicates that the allowed CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm in classrooms can be at times surpassed by a huge margin, resulting in concentration problems, fatigue, nausea, headaches, coughing, sneezing, and eye inflammation for students. This is why every school, local authority and community should look for sustainable practices to improve air quality.
Improving School Attendance
No one wants students or staff to lose valuable time away from school, university, or college because of ill health caused by poor air quality. For little learners, this is likely to be a serious issue because their bodies are still developing. So, high exposure to pollutants that cause illnesses is likely to result in missed classes as students or teachers seek medical help. Ultimately, the learner may start getting poor grades.
Good Air Quality is Crucial in Boosting Cognitive Efficiency
Research indicates that when students and teachers work in a clean environment, their cognitive levels go up. High CO2 is particularly harmful, pulling down cognitive levels by as much as 20%. If the learning environment is highly polluted, children are likely to perform very poorly in their exams.
The Main Sources of Pollution in Schools
To be able to address the problem of air quality in schools, it is important to think broadly about sustainability. Some causes of poor air quality in schools are off-site and on-site sources. Here is a summary of the main causes of pollution:
- Proximity to heavy traffic regions, especially in cities.
- Idling engines, such as delivery trucks and school buses.
- Proximity to industrial and chemical facilities.
- Chemicals in cleaning products.
- Pesticides and chemicals used around the school.
- Mold infestation.
- Dust and particulates from construction work around the school or neighborhood.
- Toxic chemicals found in building materials, art supplies, and painted walls.
How to Improve Air Quality in Schools
While the dangers that come from poor air quality are many, the good thing is that several steps can be used to improve it. Here are some of the best seven suggestions:
Start by Surveying Airborne Pollutants
The pollutants that cause poor air quality in schools differ, and you need to clearly understand them to be able to identify the right method of improvement. For example, mold is very common in schools, and it can trigger allergies in learners and teachers. You should consider installing indoor air quality monitors to be able to detect the presence of molds or other pollutants.
As you evaluate the pollutants, make sure to also note the sources. For example, if there is a lot of smoke in the school compound, where is it coming from? Is it from traffic in the city, incinerators, or industries? Consider working with the relevant authorities in your region to determine the exact levels, possible effects, and methods of pushing it down.
Evaluate Your School’s Air Conditioning System
When you determine that the school’s air quality is poor, it is important to create a good plan. Like a hotel, your school can air condition the rooms to keep the air clean and make learning more enjoyable. Your first step should be the school’s HVAC system. So, here are some of the things that you need to evaluate the effectiveness of the air conditioning system.
Depending on the level of air pollution in the school, you need to ask key questions about the HVAC system. So, how old is your air conditioning system? If it is very old and becoming ineffective, this might be the perfect time to consider a replacement. Remember that the HVAC should only be replaced by a model that fits well within your sustainability goals.
If your HVAC is okay, it might also be an excellent moment to review its ability to clear humidity from the system. Make sure to have different parts of the HVAC system checked regularly to ensure it is performing optimally. Also, set a clear schedule for regular maintenance of the HVAC for the school.
Install Continewm in Your Air Condition Unit
After evaluating the air conditioning system, one efficient way to purify the air and eliminate odor is through the installation of Continewm. These nets are safe and easy to install as they are compatible with any AC unit. It results in a more homogenous distribution of water molecules in the air volume and evens out temperature distribution while improving the indoor air quality. Not only does it help with the air quality but also in reducing the energy consumption, resulting in a reduction in your electricity bill.
If you are interested in this technology, feel free to visit our website to learn more about the installation process and the product.
Adopt Good Housekeeping
Rugs and carpets are considered the perfect spots for congregating both at home and school. However, they can turn into a major source of allergens if pushed into the air we breathe. It is not just carpets and rugs that can become a source of particulates in the atmosphere. Poorly kept surfaces, perhaps because they have not been washed for some time, can also be a major source of harmful particles in school.
To clear these pollutants, you should steam clean or vacuum the carpets regularly. Also, the floors should be mopped regularly, and windows wiped every day. Clearing pollutants from the surfaces can help to ensure they do not end up in the air.
Add Plants into the School Compounds
For most schools, plants are used for aesthetic purposes, but we must say that they come with additional purposes. The most important is helping to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Indeed, this has been a major action for sustainability in many hotels, offices, and homes, and you can implement it in school too.
So, check for available space in your school and then identify plants that can be used to beautify the compound and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We must say that this is a sustainable practice that can have a huge impact even on the neighborhood. So, you might want to also enlist the community in the neighborhood to encourage them to go green.
Alone, your school can only remove so much carbon dioxide from the compound but imagine how much effect hundreds or thousands of homes and offices in the neighborhood would have after joining the initiative. Enrolling children and other stakeholders in greening efforts and specific programmes helps impart critical skills and strong values, and sends a strong message to the community.
Start Using Air Purifiers
As we pointed out already, air pollutants can have negative implications on the cognitive abilities of learners. So, your school should also consider using purifiers to clear the harmful particulates from the air. Air purifiers have a pretty simple setup of a fan that sucks in air, and an array of filters. The filters are mainly made up of fibers, mesh, or papers that capture pollutants as air is pushed through.
To help improve the air quality in schools, offices, classrooms, or other spaces in the facility, air should be passed through the purifier before getting circulated to them. So, start by checking the structural design of the rooms to ensure they are air-tight so that no pollutants will easily get through. Then, only supply them with purified air from the purifier. Remember to regularly check the filters and replace them immediately after they get used up. As mentioned earlier, installing Continewm is one of the best and most practical solutions on the market today to help reduce your energy consumption and improve air quality.
Remove Harmful Materials from the Building Material
Were your school buildings built earlier than the 1990s? If yes, it is possible that the materials that were used release harmful materials, such as asbestos, formaldehyde, and lead. Although these chemicals might be hard to detect because they do not have a distinct smell or taste, they can be pretty harmful when absorbed into the body. Therefore, it is important to work with professionals who can ascertain if harmful chemicals are present in school classrooms.
Depending on the harmful chemicals and levels, the experts will also recommend the best method of removing them. For example, you might need to use abatement or encapsulation if the school buildings have high levels of asbestos. In the case of lead, the process might require removing the paint on the walls using wire brushes and applying a new coat of color that is free from harmful chemicals.
Air quality in schools should be the first priority for administrations because it determines the effectiveness of the learning process. You might want to use one of the methods we listed in this post or combine several of them for better results. You should also consider adding the school air quality efforts into the overall sustainability plan, which should extend to other areas like cutting down electricity bills and resource conservation. Furthermore, you need to regularly review the plan, perhaps after every few months, to determine if it is working and institute changes where necessary.