The back-to-school season is here. This time of year is met with a range of emotions—from excitement for new friends to nervousness about academic demands. Bringing another emotion, however, is the fact that air quality in the classroom may be less than ideal. Between COVID variants and the toxic particles that are known to contaminate indoor areas, the back-to-school rush has many parents feeling a little concerned.
Here’s everything you need to know about classroom contaminants and steps you can take to breathe a little easier as your kids return to school.
School Bells and Alarm Bells: Classroom Air Quality
Concern over classroom air quality has grown in recent years. As a silver lining to an otherwise tragic situation, the COVID pandemic illuminated many air quality concerns in schools.
For perhaps the first time, there’s broad awareness of the impacts of poor ventilation and how contaminants like CO2 and volatile organic compounds can compromise student health and wellness. We’re increasingly aware of how external factors—like traffic jams—can have an impact on the cognitive health of students!
Indoor Contaminants and the Factors that Contribute to Them
In pre-schools, lecture halls, and dorm rooms alike, air quality has raised the alarm bells for students of all types. No, we’re not just talking about the effect the mountain of dirty laundry and old takeaway containers has on the health of a college freshman.
The list of potential contaminants are far ranging and caused by many reasons:
- Overcrowding and increased humidity can contribute to dangerous mold growth
- External pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) can enter from outside the school
- Natural radon can accumulate in schools with poor ventilation
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be released by furnishings, paints, and building materials
- Ozone can be released from sprays and some air-cleaning devices
- School materials may release chemical substances like nickel, lead, and cadmium
- Road traffic and heating can produce particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10)
Across the board, these are considered to be dangerous for students’ health. These indoor contaminants can lead to respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea. Taking a particular toll on academic performance, poor air quality in the classroom has also been shown to compromise concentration and increase feelings of fatigue and tiredness.
What to Do?
How can parents feel excited about their kids’ return to school this year when they know that 6 out of 10 classrooms have worse air quality than busy roads?
Fortunately, controlling temperature, humidity, and ventilation can go a long way in making schools safer for students. When it comes to viral concerns like COVID, masks and social distancing may not always be the best solution—especially for young students and rule-breaking college kids—but there are methods that could prove even more effective.
In a school district in Georgia, installing HEPA filtration systems and improving ventilation strategies led to an impressive 48% reduced rate of COVID, which was far more effective than using masks alone.
That said, arming a dorm room with an AirDoctor Air Purifier or suggesting that your child’s school makes use of them is one of the best ways you can breathe a little easier during the back-to-school season.
Not only are they capable of removing 99.97% of the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, but these air purifiers are designed to capture other contaminants like smoke, bacteria, viruses, pet dander, pollen, and mold, too. Providing added peace of mind, the carbon filter takes care of dangerous ozone, gasses, and VOCs like formaldehyde.
Because of increasing awareness, now’s the time to contribute to the momentum building around improved air quality in the classroom. If you’re dissatisfied with your school district’s response to calls for cleaner indoor air, put pressure on them to make some changes. Schools have limited budgets and quite often, indoor air quality isn’t a top priority.
But it needs to be. When the air quality of a classroom is prioritized, it can result in lower rates of influenza and asthma attacks, reduced absenteeism, and improvements in reading and math test scores. Put simply, it helps students think more clearly and ensures better health and well-being—and that’s exactly what school is all about, right?
Back to School with Better Air Quality
The past couple of years have shed light on air quality in classrooms around the country. While COVID has been the main focus, it’s clear that that’s not the only contaminant of concern. As you help your child prepare for school with no. 2 pencils and dorm room meal passes, be sure to turn to AirDoctor for another important back-to-school essential: clean air.