As students return to school for a new school year in many states, it is essential for school districts to consider the effects of air pollution on students and implement strategies to mitigate these effects.
How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Affect Children in Schools?
Productivity: Better Air Quality Improves Learning and Cognition
Teachers make a variety of efforts to maximize the effectiveness of their students’ learning experience; customized teaching strategies, optimized classroom layouts, and detailed lesson plans are just a few of the factors that teachers consider.
But a crucial factor in a student’s success is the air they breathe. Research has demonstrated the effects of air quality on several key aspects of cognition.
In a 2016 study, researchers tested how air quality affected the cognitive performance of office workers. Study participants spent six full work days (eight hours) in environmentally-controlled office spaces, blind to test conditions. On each of the days, they were exposed to different levels of pollutants (VOCs and CO2), and the spaces were ventilated at a different rate.
Of the nine domains of cognitive function tested, researchers found that all were improved by higher air quality. Cognitive scores averaged 61% higher on days with better air quality and 101% higher on days with both better air quality and improved ventilation than on days that represented typical office air quality conditions.
Sharp cognitive function is especially important for children, as it is necessary for developing critical thinking skills, absorbing information, and learning problem-solving.
Attendance: Poor Air Quality Linked to More School Absences
Obviously, students will bear the brunt of air pollution exposure. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah reveals that the number of school absences usually doubles the day after a red air day—that’s when ambient or outdoor air quality levels have reached unhealthy levels.
The study, which analyzed student attendance data from the Salt Lake City School District, found that even a slight increase in PM2.5—particulate matter no larger than 2.5 microns in diameter, also known as fine particulate matter—led to a substantial increase in the number of student absences the following day.
A 2019 study by a team of researchers at the University of Utah who analyzed data from the Salt Lake City School District found that school absences doubled the day immediately following a red air day (when local air quality data indicates that ambient outdoor air quality has reached unhealthy levels). The researchers also found that even small increases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) led to significant increases in student absences the following day.
Health: Air Pollution Linked to Poor Health Outcomes, Including Childhood Obesity
In addition to the widely known effects of air pollution on respiratory and cardiovascular health, both in the short- and long-term, poor air quality has a wide range of serious, and sometimes unexpected, health outcomes. These outcomes are particularly prevalent among children and teenagers.
Many studies have documented the link between symptoms of asthma and childhood obesity. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, for example, found that asthmatic children were 51% more likely than their peers to become obese over the next decade.
Researchers hypothesize that the pain and discomfort caused by asthma cause children affected by the condition to play and exercise less, leading to weight gain. The presence of common pollutants in schools, including pollen, dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) worsens symptoms of asthma and triggers full-blown asthma attacks. With over six million American children affected by asthma, it is important for the air inside schools to be clean.
Sickness: Air Filtration Reduces the Spread of COVID-19 and Other Illnesses
The spread of COVID-19 in schools is still a major concern due to the close proximity of children to each other. COVID-19 is one of many illnesses that spreads via airborne respiratory droplets from infected individuals. Because these respiratory droplets are considered particulate matter, they can be filtered out of the air just like any other particle pollutants of similar size.
As new, more contagious variants continue to emerge, it is important to reduce the spread of infections within schools to avoid widespread infections and potential school shutdowns.
Premium Air Filters to Protect Students and Improve Learning for 2022 Fall Semester
Fortunately, poor indoor air quality in schools can be controlled through the use of high-efficiency air filters in the HVAC systems of schools where possible. In the many cases that the school’s HVAC system is not equipped to handle high-efficiency filters, standalone air purifiers, such as Camfil’s City M can be used. This provides the added benefit of removing gaseous pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and VOCs, from the air.
Read this case study to learn about how Camfil worked with a Mid-Atlantic school district to optimize air quality and protect students’ health.
About Camfil Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 31 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 35+ countries, and about 5,200 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil USA can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.us/
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