Indoor Air and Schools: Creating a Healthier Learning Environment

By Brandy Angell

Ready for school? It’s that time of the year and we all can relate to the end of summer and the beginning of back-to-school preparations. As a new mom, this time of year has given me a new perspective. Ethan is just 8-months-old but these past months have taught me a lot about the values of preparation and that it’s possible to overanalyze everything in your child’s surrounding environment. Eventually, I would like to think the neurosis fades away but my mom serves as a reminder that you never stop worrying about your children. As kids head back to school, I wonder if school staff and parents consider whether children are returning to a healthy learning environment?

Between last minute preparations and summer vacations, the school’s environment and its impact on occupant health can be easily overlooked. However, levels of pollutants indoors can be higher than in outdoor air and poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is associated with fatigue, nausea, allergies and asthma and can also have an effect on concentration, attendance, and student performance.

With the help of the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools you can learn how to identify, correct, and prevent indoor air problems that can trigger asthma attacks and other health problems in order to create a healthier learning environment. Here are some tips:

  • Learn more about IAQ issues, related health effects, and how student performance is affected. EPA’s free resources can help you use your voice to promote a healthier learning environment and discuss indoor air with parents, community organizers, and your school community. The  Action Kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan to improve indoor air.
  • Help manage asthma in the schools. Many of the same asthma triggers found in homes can also be found in schools. Learn how to reduce exposure to asthma triggers in your school. Work with your healthcare provider to create an asthma action plan and give a copy to the school nurse, coach and other caregivers.
  • Build momentum for a school environmental health project. With the help of curricula, students can learn about the indoor air environment and how it directly affects them!

Ethan may be five years away from his first day of school, but at least I know there are steps we can take to help keep him healthy. What actions will you take to create a healthier school environment?

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.

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