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Improving Air Quality in Schools to Celebrate Children’s Health Month 2011

2011 October 20

By Lou Witt, Indoor Environments Division and Kathy Seikel, Office of Children’s Health Protection

With an emphasis on healthy schools, this year’s Children’s Health Month brings back memories of life as a student. When we were children, not many people focused on indoor air quality in schools. Until fairly recently, few made removing asthma triggers a priority. Industrial strength pesticides and cleaners were used liberally, and teachers smoked in their own separate lounge. Times have changed. Now we understand how important a healthy environment is to the learning process.

Children are uniquely affected by environmental hazards due to their body size and their immune and respiratory systems not being fully developed. A well located, thoughtfully designed, soundly built and efficiently operated school can help ensure a safer, healthier learning environment for children, allowing them to thrive and succeed.

Join EPA this October and throughout the year as we work with partners to promote healthy environments where children live, learn and play. Proven, cost-effective and often simple actions can directly benefit everyone’s health. Indoors, testing for radon, removing furry pets and stuffed animals from classrooms, using low/no VOC products and going smoke-free are common. The physical location of a school also can affect students. A properly located building can help reduce children’s exposure to harmful pollutants by ensuring a potential school site is safe from contaminants and environmental hazards.

If your community is renovating a school, building a new one or wanting to improve the health and performance of students, Children’s Health Month is the perfect time to get involved. Two great places to visit that will get you started are EPA’s new School Siting Guidelines, which can help mitigate outdoor environmental risks; and the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit, which provides guidance and helpful instructions for teachers, staff, students and the community.

Better indoor air quality protects children’s health. To see how you can help create a healthier school environment for youth in your community, visit and

Learn more and tell us how you celebrated Children’s Health Month by promoting green, clean and healthy schools!

About the authors:

Kathy Seikel, a senior policy analyst with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, has worked for EPA since 1984 and remembers when, as a college student in the 70s, smoking by students and teachers was allowed in all classrooms.

Lou Witt, a Program Analyst in EPA’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, is promoting indoor air quality risk reduction

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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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    October 23, 2011

    This will never happen until all schools are FRAGRANCE FREE.

  2. Jeffrey Mount permalink
    October 25, 2011

    There is something to do about this topic. Every one should work hand in hand so that the thing that you wanted to happen will come true. Planting more trees is the best one. It helps to purify the polluted air came from vehicles and factories.

  3. Jason Smith permalink
    October 25, 2011

    Well, it can be possible if every one of the school will cooperate. Every one should have their responsibilities to commit some ideas on how can you improve the air quality of your school. There will be no strong barriers if you work together as a whole.

  4. John Helfrich permalink
    October 25, 2011

    Of all the things that impact our health, air quality is perhaps the most important. Unlike food and water, you can’t make a choice where you’ll get it from – or abstain if you don’t like the look of it. So it’s vital that we live in areas that provide clean air, not just in schools, but everywhere we live and work.

    A recent study by the Office of the Environment in Toronto, Canada found that nearly 40% of the ambient air pollutants in my local community originated in the U.S. (figures based largely on data provided by US Environmental agencies and computer modelling).

    Although we’re over 25 miles away from the nearest point in the US, we’re getting the majority of airborne pollution from the industry and coal fired generating plants in the Ohio Valley over 100 miles away.

    In other words, clean air is everyone’s business, regardless of national boundaries. My 5 point summary of the report, followed by the data and maps for the 30 measured substances can be found in an article I wrote for my site at

  5. June 19, 2012

    Testing for radon gas in schools should be on the top of the ‘list of things to do’ our children should not be exposed to radon gas at school or at home! every parent should have their home tested and every school should be tested for radon gas and if needed they should put a radon mitigation system in!

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