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A Back-to School Checklist for Indoor Air Quality?

2010 September 2

It’s that time of year again and everyone can relate to the annual school supply checklist and the hours spent preparing for the upcoming school year. Binders – check. Pens – check. But, how many school staff, parents or students stop to think about whether the school they will return to is a healthy learning environment—free of indoor air quality (IAQ) issues?


Before coming involved with EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program, little did I know that the everyday classroom environment can seriously affect student performance. Was that vanilla plug-in from my 7th grade math class a decoy to mask an odor problem, caused by poor ventilation? Did Fluffy the 3rd grade pet rabbit make my asthma worse?

While I can’t change the past conditions, I look forward to a future where all schools can effectively manage indoor air quality and maintain a healthy learning environment. With the help of the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit, school staff and parents can learned on how to improve indoor air problems at little-or no-cost through straightforward activities. Use this back-to-school checklist help you get started this school year:

  • Learn more about IAQ issues, related health effects, and how student performance is affected. Equip yourself with EPA’s free resources that can help you explain IAQ issues and discuss an indoor air quality management program other parents, community organizers, and your school community. Consider becoming a volunteer to help coordinate the effort.
  • Build momentum for a school environmental health project. With the help of IAQ Curricula, even students can learn about the indoor air environment and how it can affect concentration, attendance, and performance.
  • Help manage asthma in the school environment. Discover ways reduce student and staff exposure to asthma triggers in your school. If your child suffers from asthma, be sure to provide the school with a copy of your child’s asthma action plan.
  • Encourage your school to apply for an award. If your school or school district has implemented a successful IAQ program, learn more about the EPA Awards Program.

About the Author: Brandy Angell is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air’s Indoor Environments Division. She joined EPA in 2009 to focus on improving children’s health in the school environment and reducing the burden of asthma. Her work recently took on new importance with the impending arrival of a son in January 2011.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. jessimen permalink
    September 4, 2010

    The first thing you should know is that HVAC is an abbreviation for Heating, Ventillation and Air Conditioning. This kind of device is a one piece unit that provides all your heating and cooling needs.

  2. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 5, 2010

    This is a great article and one I will be passing on the our school district here. We have a number of school campuses, including some charter schools and the district also helps support 2 workshops for adult disabled persons. It is even better that the air quality measures you recommend are easy to find and cost little or no money because every school district in California is in very serious financial condition and some important funding the school districts and counties expected from the state this month has been stopped. So it looks like your program could be a win for the local school district, the staff, and the students. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  3. Jerry morgan permalink
    September 7, 2010

    Schools should have to use specific green cleaning chemicals as well so as to ensure that children are not breathing in bleach or amonia.

  4. Steve Ripple permalink
    September 8, 2010

    I have some good proposals for how to not have to worry about Indoor Air Quality anymore:

    (1) Ban all toxic emissions from all sources and products in any stage of manufacture, transportation, or use.

    (2) Ban PVC. There is nothing good about PVC, and you should already know all about it.

    (3) Ban the use of or inclusion (direct or indirect) of formaldehyde, aldehyde, chlorine, PVC, ABS, bromine, xylene, toluene, other dangerous solvents, ozone, HCFCs, HFCs, ethylene glycol, biocides, and the list goes on and on and on (you get the point) in any form in the manufacture of all consumer and commercial products, especially building products, construction products, and buildings themselves. Through the use of safe and/or renewable plastics – like polyethylene and polypropylene – and natural, renewable, recycled, and truly sustainable products we can begin to make the indoor air quality of our homes and workplaces finally better than the air quality outside. Set new minimums and rules for recycling practices and recycled content.

    (4) Set limits on the amount of or in some instances ban altogether non-renewable plastics, as well as setting new industry standards for VOCs (including doing away with exempt solvents and other exempt chemicals, as this is of the highest degree of ignorance).

    (5) And finally, any building that was built or worked on during the period of 1930 and 1980 may have asbestos in just about every area. With the incentives out there for remodeling and retrofitting, I think there needs to be a new campaign to raise asbestos awareness for everyone — especially contractors, homeowners, and kids. There also needs to be a push for low-cost asbestos testing. When someone budgets for a remodel, he or she likely doesn’t budget for testing each wall, ceiling, and floor for asbestos. If the project is done without testing, and asbestos fibers pollute the home, the contractor and the home’s inhabitants will likely suffer extremely unnecessary and dire consequences.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  5. Kevin Megan permalink
    September 9, 2010

    it’s hard to avoid free radicals but you can lessen it’s effect in your body you just need to boost your immune system for you to fight the free radicals

  6. Bob permalink
    September 15, 2010

    Checking the HVAC/R system and components for proper operation and efficiency can go a long way in keeping the air quality of a school, college or university clean and free of dirt and contaminants. We work with many such institutions in providing HVAC/R replacement parts at the best prices in the industry. If cost is keeping you away from good maintenance of your HVAC/R systems, check out our website

  7. Mike permalink
    September 16, 2010

    I found out about this program by chance while I was reading through some funny facebook statuses and now I have a question. I’m in Kansas but I don’t know exactly what is the eligibility criteria of this program and where do I go to apply for this ???

  8. Kevin Megan permalink
    September 21, 2010

    why is it that back when were kids at school in our time we don’t have these facilities and yet were not sick?

  9. leslie brue permalink
    November 11, 2011

    We have dark grey and black crud blowing from the univents in our 75 year old school building. What is causing this? This is after they are supposedly cleaned! Please help with info and advice!

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