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The Importance of Indoor Air Quality In Schools Today

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality In Schools Today

Indoor air quality is one of the most significant concerns impacting schools across America today. In fact, over half of our schools nation-wide are struggling with issues like poor indoor air quality – putting students, staff and parents at risk of suffering harmful health effects. Considering that 21% of the American population or 71.9 million people are in schools every day (students and staff), the importance of clean indoor air quality is abundantly clear. We have been helping daycares, schools, colleges and universities across America provide better indoor air quality for nearly 50 years. We know firsthand how crucial clean air is for our children, colleagues and community members. 

Read on to learn how indoor air quality affects both students and staff, and discover the incredible impact high-quality HVAC air filters have on schools across America.

Why Indoor Air Quality Matters

Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors , with children from K - 12th Grade spending up to 7 hours per day in schools on average. Moreover, studies from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that levels of air pollutants indoors can range from 2 to 100 times higher than outdoors. In light of these staggering statistics, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board has ranked indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.

Though the health risks associated with indoor air pollutants and the decline of indoor air quality have been widely researched in recent years, many Americans don’t fully understand how this can impact themselves, their families and their communities. 96% of Americans believe indoor air affects their physical and mental health, but less than half of them don’t know how to address this issue. It’s surprising to see that one of the biggest environmental risks to public health is also one of the most unnoticed. 

Schools & Indoor Air Quality

The effects of poor indoor air quality continue to harm schools in a number of ways, such as limiting student and staff performance, reducing student attendance due to sickness, and even damaging school equipment among many other factors. These harmful effects are worsened by the high-traffic nature of schools, as classrooms tend to have around four times more people per square foot than other communal areas like office spaces. When schools don’t take appropriate action to maintain proper air quality in their facilities, they put all attendees at risk – especially children. 

Coughing, sneezing, headaches, allergic reactions, nausea, shortness of breath, asthma and the spread of airborne illnesses are just some of the many negative health effects poor indoor air quality has on children in schools across the United States. Considering that 1 in 12 school-aged children have asthma and incidences of respiratory illnesses are increasing in children , the significance of cleaner indoor air quality cannot be overlooked. 

Good indoor air quality contributes to the health, comfort and well-being of students and is undoubtedly crucial to helping schools achieve their core mission: educating children to the highest degree. However, Building Managers face the challenge of balancing the issue of their school’s budget with that of child safety. What’s more, many public schools in America are funded by student attendance – making student absenteeism due to the health effects mentioned above a serious risk to this funding. The good news though is that support for schools in our communities is expanding through efforts like the Full-Service Community Schools Program and the American Lung Association’s recently published Indoor Air Quality In Schools Guide . In combination with simple, cost-effective solutions to improving indoor air quality, Building and Facilities Managers have a range of tools at their disposal to create safer spaces for students and staff.


Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality

There are many factors that can contribute to worse indoor air quality, but some are more common in schools than others. Poor airflow or HVAC air filtration, improper HVAC air filter maintenance, low classroom ventilation, imbalanced indoor temperature, science lab and art studio supplies, trash emissions, odors from volatile organic compounds (like chalk, paint or adhesives) and cleaning supplies are all things that frequently reduce indoor air quality in schools according to the EPA . For a complete list of common air pollutants found in schools, download the EPA’s Typical Indoor Air Pollutants guide . Some indoor air quality problems can be easy to solve by faculty and staff while others may require professional assistance or even demand emergency action. The signs of these may be subtle, but they can have serious effects on students and staff – making it vitally important to understand and identify early warning signs. Building and Facility Managers should consult the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Problem Solving Tool regularly to look for signs of negative health effects related to air quality in their schools.

The Best Solutions

Using proper HVAC air filters and conducting regular HVAC maintenance is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality in schools. HVAC systems control all heating, cooling and ventilation serving a school, making them a crucial component that interacts with every interior space. Properly designed and installed HVAC systems help schools filter airborne contaminants and pollutants, remove odors, distribute sufficient amounts of cleaner outdoor air, control temperature and humidity, and regulate indoor airflow. Schools generally use one of two common HVAC designs – unit ventilators or central air-handling systems. In short, unit ventilators serve single classrooms while central air-handling systems serve multiple rooms. 

This is important to understand as many schools, academic institutions and childcare facilities have a variety of learning spaces that require different HVAC solutions. Classrooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, science labs and workshops are a few of the many rooms that have differing HVAC needs. Using the correct HVAC air filters in each of these areas is crucial to consistently providing better indoor air quality throughout the school. While cutting small costs for proper air filtration may save money in the short-term, using high-quality HVAC air filters and keeping up with scheduled maintenance will have a much more sustainable impact in the long run. 

The National Air Filtration Association recommends HVAC air filters for schools have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of between 8 and 13 – meaning these filters can capture up to 98% of airborne particles and pollutants. By upgrading from filters with low MERV ratings to high-quality HVAC filters like Brookaire’s MERV 10 Pleated Air Filters , MERV 13 Pleated Air Filters or our HVAC HEPA Filters , schools can significantly reduce many harmful air pollutants and substantially raise indoor air quality. High MERV filters like this not only improve the health and wellbeing of students and staff, but better protect the HVAC systems themselves. This means schools can spend less on HVAC air filter maintenance, replacement and overall electric costs given the incredible efficiency of these filters. 

With the Northeast’s largest inventory of HVAC air filters, v-belts and HVAC service supplies, Brookaire is helping Building and Facility Managers improve indoor air quality in countless schools across America. Browse our high-quality air filters now or order a custom-sized filter today!


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  20. https://www.brookaire.com/airfiltersearch