Did you know? Good indoor air quality can reduce absenteeism, improve test scores and enhance productivity amongst students and teachers.
What Is Indoor Air Pollution?
You can’t see it, but indoor air pollution can irritate, aggravate and in some cases, cause extreme harm. Indoor air pollution is caused by a huge variety of chemicals, products and even pets. Some of these pollutants come from the natural environment, while others are man-made and were only introduced into our lives in modern times. What is most concerning to learn is that household indoor air pollution is responsible for almost four million deaths worldwide each year and it has been linked to serious diseases such as lung cancer.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality Important In Schools?
Good indoor air quality is a crucial component of a healthy indoor environment. Schools that fail to prevent or respond to issues with air quality can risk both long- and short-term health problems for students and staff. Some of these include coughing, eye irritation, headaches and allergic reactions.
The UK has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with one in three children in classrooms in the UK displaying symptoms. Every year, in excess of one in five children are absent from school for asthma-related illness. There is also substantial evidence to suggest that, by exposing students and staff to dust-mites, pests and moulds, asthmatic symptoms may be triggered. This increase in absenteeism can, in turn, negatively affect academic performance and research has linked air quality to enhanced academic performance, as well as teacher and staff productivity and retention.
Common Causes Of Poor Indoor Air Quality In Schools
Often, when a new carpet is installed, it releases chemicals from both the vinyl backing and the glue used to secure the carpet to the floor. This can happen for as long as five years after the carpet has been installed.
The release of these chemicals is known as off-gassing, which has been known to cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and asthma-like reactions. Small children who spend time closer to the carpet are most at risk, as well as those suffering from asthma and other allergies.
Arts and Crafts
Many arts and crafts supplies are responsible for exposing children to harmful fumes. Some of these include paints, glues, polymer clays and markers – even some labelled ‘non toxic.’ For safety reasons, it is often better to take craft projects outside.
Cleaners and Disinfectants
It is common to have multiple cleaners, sanitisers and disinfectants in a schools’ cleaning arsenal but, when these substances interact with the air we breathe, complex VOCs can be formed. VOCs are volatile organic compounds. These organic chemicals have been linked to numerous health concerns, such as asthma and respiratory problems.
Damp Buildings And Mould
Mould is often caused by damp or water-damaged surfaces. Some health effects caused by mould include coughing, sneezing, dizziness and exhaustion. It is best to keep school buildings at a relative humidity of between 30% to 50% to avoid the kind of environment where mould can thrive. Spaces should be kept well-ventilated to ensure that moisture can’t accumulate.
How To Achieve Good Indoor Air Quality In Schools
Proper ventilation is the most successful way to improve indoor air quality. Ventilation helps to reduce the number of indoor pollutants and can be achieved by both natural and mechanical means.
To boost the rate of ventilation in a school, the obvious solution is to open as many doors and windows for as long as possible. If a room only has windows or vents on one side, consider using a fan to promote circulation in stagnant areas.
Cross-ventilation is also highly encouraged as it increases the outdoor airflow and, consequently, the removal of airborne pathogens. This can be achieved when windows or vents are opened on different sides of a room.
Additionally, windows in toilet blocks should be left open as long as reasonably possible. However, remember to keep toilet doors closed to avoid pollutants from entering the rest of the building.
Mechanical Ventilation During The Covid-19 Pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, buildings that use mechanical ventilation systems must extend their operation times to start at least two hours before the building is used, and end only two hours after the building has closed. This will assist in reducing the amount of recirculated air being spread.
It is also recommended that ventilation should be kept on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and relative humidity should be kept above 40% wherever possible. Additionally, to avoid recirculation and prevent the risk of transmission of airborne viral particles in the building, the advice is to close the recirculation dampers, either via the Building Management System or manually.
Contact Voltix Services
Voltix Services is up to date with the latest recommendations from the government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We are accredited to carry out a range of testing, maintenance and compliance services to assist your facility in maintaining the highest levels of health and safety during the pandemic.
Enquire now to find out how Voltix Services can assist with expert advice and efficient service to ensure good indoor air quality in your school.