Back to school: Cleaner air improves performance

Indoor air quality has a direct impact on student health and performance. With cleaner air, students concentrate better and get higher grades. So, why do so many schools have poor air quality?

Many people are not aware of how bad the indoor air quality in schools can be. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, coughing, and eye, nose and throat irritation are symptoms of poor air quality in learning environments. Consider this:

  • About 50% of all schools have poor indoor air quality. Students typically spend about 940 hours in school per year, according to EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

  • 25% of all school children attended schools where the nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceeded EU limits, says a 2015 U.K report. Nitrogen dioxide is a lung irritant and has been linked to school absenteeism.

  • 1,800 schools closed in Delhi, India, last November due to the worst smog to hit India’s capital in nearly a decade. And if outdoor air quality is bad, so is the indoor air quality, which can be up to five times more polluted than outdoors.

Good indoor air quality reduces absenteeism, improves test scores and enhances productivity. Improving indoor air quality not only creates a healthier learning environment – it also has a positive impact on student attention spans and academic performance, according to a growing body of research.

What can I do?

Parents and students can work with school officials to promote better air quality indoors. To make sure indoor air quality is a top priority, here’s what you can do:

  • Ask the school to monitor indoor and outdoor air quality and/or consider hiring a qualified professional for indoor air testing

  • Make sure the school ventilation system is working properly, undergoes regular inspection and maintenance, and has its filters replaced on a routine basis
  • Be sure that hallways and classroom floors are wet mopped and surfaces dusted frequently
  • Identify and eliminate sources of moisture that promote mold and mildew
  • Minimize classroom overcrowding 

  • Reduce exposure to potential allergens throughout the school 

  • Establish a fragrance-free policy – perfumes can be worn outside school hours
  • Make sure the school uses safe, non-toxic cleaning products and paints 

  • Ask the school to remove any building materials, furniture, carpets, and other furnishings that release toxic gases or volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the air

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