Pollution & air quality
Indoor air quality
Proper maintenance of indoor air in schools is more than a "quality" issue - it is necessary for a safe and healthy learning and work environment. Indoor air quality is especially important in schools for two reasons:
- First, staff and students spend extended periods of time indoors and are potentially exposed to a variety of indoor air pollutants - in both new and older schools.
- Second, children's physiology is still developing and not as resistant to the effects of poor indoor air quality. Indoor air problems can be subtle and do not always have easily recognizable impacts on health or well-being.
Good indoor air quality contributes to a favourable learning environment for students, as well as productivity for teachers and staff. Failure to prevent indoor air problems in a school, or failure to act promptly, can have consequences such as:
- Long- and short-term health problems for students and staff
- Poor learning environment
- Reduced comfort and attendance
- Reduced productivity of teachers and staff due to discomfort, sickness, or absenteeism
- Deterioration or reduced efficiency of school infrastructure, facilities, and equipment
- Increased chance of school closure or relocation of students
- Increased tension between school administration, parents, and staff
How do I know if there is an indoor air quality problem?
Diagnosing symptoms that relate to indoor air quality can be tricky. Acute (short-term) symptoms of indoor air quality problems are typically similar to those from colds, allergies, fatigue, or the flu. However, there are some clues that can serve as indicators of potential indoor air problems:
- Widespread symptoms - within a class or within the school, potentially indicating a ventilation problem
- Disappearing symptoms - symptoms go away when students and staff leave for the day
- Sudden onset - symptoms occurred after some change at school, such as painting or pesticide application
- Localized - persons with allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities have reactions only inside the school, not outdoors
- Diagnosis - a doctor has diagnosed a student or staff member with an indoor air-related illness
What can I do if I know there's an indoor air quality problem?
If your child, or someone else you know, is experiencing symptoms that you believe may be related to their school's indoor air environment, contact a school official. Whether or not the school has a known problem, encourage the school to examine its facilities. To learn more about indoor air quality in schools, visit the New Brunswick Lung Association's Healthy School Program.