Comment Article by TR Ganesh, General Manager, Blueair Middle East
After a long summer break, it's time for the kids in the Middle East to head back to school and focus on classes, sports and other after-school activities. It is a time of transition, not only for children but for parents. Besides being anxious about the regular and recurring worrying thoughts such as – does my child have the right uniform? will they need extra help in the classroom? or what am I going to pack for lunch every day?, parents have some deeper concerns around sending their kids back to school, one of which is their child’s health.
Many people are not aware of how bad the indoor air quality in schools can be. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, coughing, and eye, nose and throat irritation are symptoms of poor air quality in learning environments. Consider this: about 50% of all schools have poor indoor air quality. Students typically spend about 940 hours in school per year, according to EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). According to a CDC report, 14 million school days were missed by students due to allergies and asthma. Looking at such research findings, parents are right to be concerned.
What we know for sure is that indoor air quality has a direct impact on student health and performance. With cleaner air, students concentrate better and get higher grades. It also helps reduce absenteeism as kids are less likely to get sick and enhances productivity. Improving indoor air quality not only creates a healthier learning environment – it also has a positive impact on student attention spans, and academic performance, according to a growing body of research.
But as everyone get adjusted to the routine of school, it's a good idea to monitor and improve indoor air to reduce student absenteeism due to illness which can directly improve a student's overall performance and can indicate future academic success.
Parents and students can work with school officials to promote better air quality indoors and to make sure indoor air quality is a top priority, here’s what can be done:
1. Monitoring air quality: You can’t manage what you don’t measure, that is to say, there is no way to know what the air quality is like without measuring it. It would be sensible for schools to carry out your own checks for both indoor and outdoor air quality. This can be done effectively by hiring a qualified professional for indoor air testing
2. Adequate air ventilation & source control: One step to improving indoor air quality in schools is to improve building ventilation. Schools must ensure the school ventilation system is working properly, undergoes regular inspection and maintenance, and has its filters replaced on a routine basis.
3. Comprehensive cleaning program: A clean school is important to every member of the school community and it helps improve indoor environmental quality. Schools should be sure that hallways and classroom floors are wet mopped, and surfaces dusted frequently using safe, non-toxic cleaning products and paints. It is also imperative to identify and eliminate sources of moisture that promote mold and mildew which will reduce the spread of infectious illness, as well as the triggers for asthma and allergies.
4. Fragrance-free schools: Strong scents and fragrances can contribute to poor indoor air quality that can be unhealthy to students and teachers alike. There are many people who experience unpleasant physical effects from scented products and a growing number of people who suffer more severe reactions to these types of products and chemicals. Allergic and asthmatic patients report that certain odours, even in the smallest amounts, can trigger an episode. Encourage your child’s school to ask its students and employees to refrain from wearing scented products (especially ones where the sole purpose is to produce a scent).
Every parent wants to do everything in their power to keep their child happy and healthy and keep their future bright. Although parents can control the indoor air quality in their homes, making improvements to the air that they breathe at school can help set a child up for success during the school year and providing a healthy, comfortable environment is an investment in the future of a child.