We Need to Advocate for Better Air in our Schools

It’s critical to provide students with a safe and comfortable environment that will enable them to learn and grow. Unfortunately, one of the most important factors that affect students’ ability to succeed is often overlooked, even though it’s hiding in plain sight: the quality of air in schools.

Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Since they’re in their fundamental development years, children and teens are more susceptible to the side effects caused by poor air quality. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can cause a variety of health problems for students, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.

Schools that take responsibility for providing healthy air to their students help are known to have…

Healthier Students

Schools that are especially hit with cold and flu seasons are likely to have poor indoor air quality. Cold and flu viruses can spread throughout a campus via the air in the right conditions–specifically, when classrooms have cold temperatures and low humidity.

Some schools will try to combat the spread of germs by excessively cleaning classrooms with harsh cleaning products. Unfortunately, the type of products cleaning crews or teachers use to disinfect classrooms can contain harmful chemicals known as VOCs, which will evaporate from desks and bookcases long after they’ve been cleaned. VOCs can give students flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, nausea, coughing, and sneezing.

Tracking and maintaining the right level of humidity and temperature in classrooms can help keep students healthier and boost overall attendance rates.  

 

Smarter Students

Unmotivated, distracted, and tired students could simply be reacting to poor air quality in classrooms–especially those with high levels of carbon dioxide. Each student exhales about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide every day, so classrooms packed with students are likely to be filled with CO2. Although it’s not a toxic gas, high levels of carbon dioxide are notorious for causing drowsiness, lack of concentration, and confusion.

The best way to keep carbon dioxide levels low in classrooms is to provide enough proper ventilation so fresh, clean air can enter classrooms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “children in classrooms with high outdoor air ventilation rates tend to achieve higher scores on standardized tests in math and reading than children in poorly ventilated classrooms.” The EPA also notes that most schools have poor or inadequate ventilation.

 

Happy Teachers

Teachers play an incredibly important role in the success of students, and their ability to perform can be impacted by unhealthy air, as well.

Classrooms that are too hot or too cold can make it difficult for teachers to work properly on their task at hand, since temperature greatly affects productivity. Schools that can provide their teachers with classrooms between 70°F and  77°F will have more comfortable and productive teachers.

Teachers can also be at risk if the classroom they spend their entire day in isn’t properly cleaned, especially for dust. Dust can quickly collect around a classroom on desks, bookshelves, and more, and it can cause more discomfort than we realize, since dust can irritate students’ eyes, skin, and ability to breathe–in some cases, too much dust can also trigger allergies, asthma, and eczema.


It’s important for schools to provide their students and teachers with safe, healthy air so they can create an environment that enables success. The best place for schools to start is by recognizing the importance and impact of indoor air quality, then by understanding exactly what’s in their campus’s air so they can make the necessary changes to help keep everyone safe and healthy.  Indoor air quality monitors, like Awair, can help with this. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air and provides you with personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy. Learn more about Awair’s ability to help schools understand what’s in their air here.