October 21, 2022

What Can Schools Do About Air Pollution?

When parents and guardians send children to school, they expect them to learn in a clean and healthy environment. However, reports from top organisations across the globe, from World Health Organisation (WHO) to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indicate that millions of students across the planet are subjected to unhealthy air quality at school. This is a major problem because it can result in poor academic performance and harmful medical conditions. This brings us to the big question, “what strategies can you adopt to address air pollution?” This post is a comprehensive look at air pollution to demonstrate the dangers it poses to students and the planet. Furthermore, it lists the main strategies that your school should take to counter it.

air pollution

Air Pollution: Why is It So Important to Understand About It?

This is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor air environment with a physical, biological, or biological agent that alters its natural characteristics. These particles can cause harm to animals, people, plants, natural, and even artificial ecosystems. In schools, pollution is even more harmful because learners are young, and their respiratory systems, among other organs, are still developing. 

Some of the main causes of pollution include paints applied on furniture and walls. Others include cleaning agents used in the school, dust from activities in the neighbourhood, pollen materials, and moulds. 

Understanding pollution is vital because it allows school management to craft the right strategies for addressing it. As we are going to see shortly, school management should be innovative in maintaining the right air quality in their schools. Note that when you work on reducing pollution, your school becomes part of the global efforts to address dangers like global warming, which is brought about by greenhouse gases (GHG). 

The Dangers of Air Pollution

Although every person, system, and facility suffers from high levels of pollution, it is learners who are affected even more. Here are some of the main dangers of pollution that are associated with air pollution: 

  • Increased absence in school. 
  • Reduced concentration levels. 
  • Training becomes a big challenge for teachers. 
  • Performance in exams declines. 
  • The pollutants contribute to global warming. 
  • Risk of infections and diseases, such as asthma and lung cancer. 
  • Higher medical-related bills for parents as their children fall sick more often. 

Strategies that Schools Use to Address Air Pollution 

As a school owner or manager, the first step in addressing air pollution is crafting a plan. So, you should first evaluate the levels of air pollution to understand the main pollutants and their levels. Then, craft a good plan for addressing it. Here are some of the best strategies that you should consider: 

Remove Harmful Materials from the Buildings 

If your school buildings or part of them were built before the 1990s, there is a risk that they might contain and release harmful substances, such as asbestos. While these chemicals are difficult to detect because they lack distinct taste or colour, they are very harmful if they get into the human body. For example, lead can accumulate in the body over time, resulting in lead poisoning. 

To remove these materials, it is important to work with air pollution professionals in your location. Here are the main materials that your school should focus on: 

  • Lead: This can come from materials used to build houses and lead-based paints. At high levels in the body, lead poisoning can result in nerve and liver failure. 
  • Formaldehyde: Although it might not be harmful in low quantities, formaldehyde can cause problems such as skin diseases and cancer if it accumulates in the body. Some of the main sources of formaldehyde include wood finishes, disinfectants, and cleaning agents. 
  • Asbestos: This is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly found in materials like building bricks, floor tiles, and cement. Although materials with asbestos have been banned in most countries, including Singapore, it is a good idea to have your school facility tested by experts. 

Replace Chalkboards in the School with Whiteboards 

In most classes, you are likely to get a chalkboard that is used by the teacher to write on when teaching students. Although they are very effective, they also generate a lot of chalk dust, which can increase air pollution in a school. If inhaled, chalk dust can cause asthma and allergies, among other upper respiratory system challenges. 

Most schools go for the chalkboard because it is cheap, but it will be a good idea to do away with it and shift to the more effective whiteboards. Instead of using chalk, teachers use pens to write on the whiteboards. You can even shift to digital models, such as projectors, in your school. Although these new facilities might appear expensive, they will come in handy in reducing the risk of pollution in schools.  

Maintain High Levels of Cleanliness 

One of the main causes of pollution in schools is dust and particles that settle on the surfaces. For example, the painted walls can peel off and add debris into the classrooms. Dust from the neighbourhood can also settle on the surfaces. These pollutants can easily be cleared through regular cleaning. Ensure that the school is cleaned regularly, preferably on a daily basis to clear off these particles. 

To avoid introducing more pollutants into the rooms, make sure to select the right detergents. Remember that the rooms are dried well before students can start using them because humidity can cause mould formation. 

Grow Plants that can Help Reduce Air Pollution in School 

Most people turn to plants to help improve the aesthetic appeal of their facilities. Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been advocating for growing more vegetation to serve as carbon sinks and reduce the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Because plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, they provide an excellent option to help reduce pollutants in the atmosphere. Note that only plants like dracaena and peace lilies should be used because of their outstanding ability to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

To get even better results, you should also plant vegetation close to the school. So, consider partnering with neighbouring communities to plant more trees. If there are some initiatives that have been initiated and are delivering impressive results, consider supporting them also.

Work with Other Organisations on Air Pollution

The path to cutting down air pollution in school can feel lonely, especially if you try to overcome the problem alone. Indeed, it is impossible to counter school pollution alone because some of the pollutants come from outside the institution. Therefore, you should look for partners, support organisations, and study firms to hold your hand along the way. International organisations, such as UNEP, WHO, Climate Fresk local government, and private businesses, would come in handy. 

When you partner with these organisations, your school will get high credibility in its efforts to address the problem of global pollution. You can also receive funding for different initiatives aimed at addressing air pollution both locally and globally. If your initiatives are very good, the school can also be used as a reference point to teach others the best practices. 

Install Ventilation Systems in Schools 

The easiest method of addressing air pollution in schools is encouraging students, teachers, and school management to open the doors and windows. As the air passes through, it takes away the pollutants and leaves the classrooms fresh. However, this method might not work effectively if the ambient air is polluted, cold, or very hot. In such a situation, you should invest in a modern ventilation system.  

A HVAC system works by heating, cooling, and filtering off harmful pollutants from the atmosphere. Then, clean air is circulated into the classrooms to provide students with the best environment. 

Types of Ventilation Systems You can Use to Reduce Air Pollution in School

  • Passive Air Pressure System: This system comprises fans that force filtered air into the classrooms and the stale air outside. You can improve the effectiveness of a positive air pressure system through air stripping. This system works best when the source of air pollution is indoors.
  • Negative Air Pressure System: If air pollution in the school originates outdoors, you should consider using the negative air pressure system. To avoid pushing the outdoor air directly into the classrooms, you should consider combining the negative air pressure system with another system that cleans it first. A good example is the Balanced Pressure Ventilation System. 
  • Balanced Pressure Ventilation System: This is the most effective system if you want to address the problem of air pollution in school. It combines the negative and positive air pressure systems by actively pumping and filtering fresh air that is directed into the classrooms. The system also uses a heat exchanger that helps to raise or lower the temperatures of the classrooms. 

Once you have selected the HVAC system for your school, the next step is ensuring it is installed properly and runs efficiently. So, make sure it is maintained in top condition and install CONTINEWM, a device designed with special materials to help improve the HVAC’s efficiency. It works by eliminating electrostatic charges that cause resistance to airflow. CONTINEWM® naturally emits specific infrared rays. These unique infrared rays are able to break down clusters of water molecules present in the air. This allows the AC unit to reach the desired temperature faster. It reduces the working load of the heat exchangers and the air flows out smoothly while eliminating odours. It is a safe, sustainable and easy-to-implement solution that can fit any AC unit. CONTINEWM® is an ultimate building efficiency product that takes only 2 minutes to install and reduces AC bill by 25% on average. CONTINEWM® nets can be installed on all air-conditioning units whether it's wall mounted, ceiling cassettes, FCUs, AHUs and any other types. An even greater thing about CONTINEWM® is that it has a lifetime warranty, therefore, no need to replace it and it can be used for many years to come.

This post has demonstrated that school air pollution is a major problem today and can easily compromise the future careers of students. We have also outlined some of the best strategies that you should consider to improve the air quality for students in schools. Make sure to include the strategy you select and the results in your sustainability report for stakeholders to read and appreciate the efforts.