Unhealthy Air Quality in Schools and Student Performance



More often than not, when people think of proper facilities for elementary and high school students, the focus understandably is on such things as teachers, furniture and equipment. People considering good schools for primary and secondary students do not often think about or contemplate air quality in schools. The stark reality is that the quality of air in schools has a direct impact on student performance.

Clean Indoor Air and Student Health and Performance

Air quality and ventilation in school buildings is vital to student health and performance. School HVAC systems can either enhancethe overall environment for students or they can contribute to a dangerous deterioration of air quality. A deterioration in air quality because of an ineffective HVAC system jeopardizes student health and performance. The ways in which a less than ideal HVAC system deteriorates air quality, student health, and student performance include: 

·         increased particulate matter
·         increased volatile organic compounds
·         increased toxic materials of other types
·         moisture intrusion
·         mold problems
  
Materials that degrade air in a school building result in a myriad of problems for students. These include:

·         respiratory issues
·         visual disorders
·         memory impairment
·         skin problems
·         concentration issues
·         lethargy 
  
Classroom Deficiencies

Research and analysis has revealed that many classrooms in schools in the United States lack mechanical ventilation. In other words, these classrooms only get any air circulation via open windows, when seasonally possible, and open doors. The bottom line is that classrooms lack appropriate ventilation and circulation. This results in the quality of air in a typical classroom being rated as poor or even extremely poor.

Sick Building Syndrome

A startling number of students in elementary and high schools are considered to have faced what is known as sick building syndrome. Sick building syndrome is a recognized medical condition. People with this illness become ill in different ways because of unhealthy air in a building.

Symptoms of sick building syndrome include:

·         headache
·         eye irritation
·         nose irritation
·         throat irritation
·         fatigue
·         dizziness
·         nausea  

When a student is afflicted with sick building syndrome he or she sees a marked deterioration in his or her academic performance. Of course, the symptoms of sick building syndrome that have just been outlined for consideration can be distracting when it comes to the educational process.

In addition, fatigue renders a person mentally far less focused that is the case when a student is sharp in his or her perceptions and acuity. This renders a student's academic performance to be significantly impacted in a truly negative manner.

There is one fairly widespread misperception associated with sick building syndrome. This is that these symptoms persist only when a person is in a building with issues like poor ventilation.

In fact, when a student is afflicted with sick building syndrome, he or she suffers the consequences of that condition not only when it a school but also during times when a student is not in the classroom. Despite breaks in direct contact with the environment of a school building, a student spends a good part of his or her life inside school. As a result, periods of time out of the building during the course of a school year is not sufficient to result in a notable recovery from the ill effects of a poor ventilated, generally unhealth school. Only when there is a more extended break from classroom attendance does a student begin to experience some true relief from sick building syndrome.

Remedying Poor Air Quality in Schools

The only true way in which air quality can be improved in schools is to undertake some fairly drastic measures. As noted previously, one of the prime reasons air quality in many school is so poor is because limitations in mechanical ventilation. As a result, there simply is not an appropriate level or ventilation in a school, leaving air quality in a building poor. Thus, one of the fundamental steps that needs to be taken to improve poor air quality in a school, and hence improve student performance, is to install mechanical air circulation and ventilation devises for all parts of a school, including classrooms.

In the process of upping ventilation, air quality and student performance can be enhanced through the installation of HVAC air cleaning systems. While this is a financial investment, the rewards are real. This type of enhancement will benefit the health and wellbeing of students. In addition, it will benefit the health and wellbeing of teachers and staff as well.

This can prove to be a financially wise investment. When air quality in a school is improved, a school or school district has teachers and staff that take less time off as a result of some type of illness. In other words, adding an air cleaning system is an investment that ends up paying for itself through a decrease in faculty and staff absences.

In the final analysis, the importance of healthy air in a school must not be minimized. Not only does good air quality enhance a student's physical health, but it also works to ensure that a student's performance is optimal.  

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