Our kids spend a great deal of time at school. Yet nearly half of the nation’s schools report problems related to indoor air quality (IAQ), according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)*. Known to trigger headaches, fatigue, dizziness, ear, nose and throat irritation and general malaise, poor IAQ in schools can have extensive consequences including high rates of absenteeism, poor student and staff performance, lack of ability to concentrate, and even increased risk of lawsuits.
Administrators who take a proactive stance toward improving IAQ are not only supporting human health, but also reducing the potential for problems brought on by poor IAQ in schools. Whether just initiating an IAQ program or enhancing an existing program, keep these three simple steps in mind:

ELIMINATE – Select products with low chemical emissions to reduce the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are released into the indoor air. For school buildings that are under construction, use low-emitting building materials such as wallboard, paints, sealants and flooring to reduce pollutant sources. For existing schools, low-emitting furniture, low-emitting cleaning products and low-emitting electronics are ideal. GREENGUARD Certified products provide third-party verification that products have been tested and identified as having low chemical emissions. Look for the GREENGUARD Certified mark on products or visit our Sustainable Product Guide for a full list of certified products.

VENTILATE – Introduce outdoor air indoors to “flush out” high concentrations of VOCs that may be present in indoor air. When weather permits and outdoor allergens are not at a peak levels, leave doors and windows open. For new construction schools, schedule a “flush-out” period in which outdoor air is introduced for a period of several days prior to occupancy so that emissions from new products can be carried out of the building. Properly exhaust pollutant-generating activities outside the building. These may include cleaning supply storage areas, printer/photocopy rooms, and kitchen/cooking areas.

EDUCATE – It is important that school faculty, staff, students and parents are all aware of IAQ issues and play a proactive role in supporting good IAQ. They may be able to identify and flag potential IAQ problems by knowing the signs – odd smells, inexplicable malaise and other health problems – that should trigger further investigation. They can also support good IAQ by donating items that are GREENGUARD Certified or by ensuring that any special activities that could release pollutants into the air are conducted in a ventilated or outdoor space.

Together, we can achieve better IAQ in schools and ensure that kids are focused on learning rather than distractions. Do you have any questions regarding IAQ? Our experts are happy to help, email us at environment@ul.com.

*Source: Center from Disease Control and Prevention 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS).