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Mind your IAQ’s: Tips on Improving Air Quality in Schools

When it comes to excelling in the classroom, it turns out the air students are breathing is just as important as the lessons they’re learning. Studies show poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can impact the comfort of students as well as staff—affecting concentration, attendance and student performance as a result. It can even lead to lower IQs! What’s more, poor indoor air quality can lead to health problems, including fatigue, nausea and asthma.

With approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population—roughly 55 million people—spending their days inside elementary and secondary schools, improving indoor air quality is an important step toward protecting public health. It can help reduce absenteeism caused by illness, improve student and staff concentration, student productivity and performance, and decrease IAQ-related health risks.

Reduce chemical pollutants

EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants may be two to five times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels, potentially causing serious health problems. In schools, respiratory effects—such as asthma, allergies and bronchitis—have been associated with excessive use of chemical pollutants such as formaldehyde, pesticides and cleaning compounds.

Improving indoor contaminant levels with high-efficiency filters and germicidal lights, as well as using lower emission cleaning supplies, can help reverse the adverse effects of pollutants in the air. These products help control three classes of air contaminants, including particles (pollen, dust mites, dirt and pet dander), bioeareosols (bacteria, viruses, mold spores and fungi) and odors/chemical vapors (chlorine, cleaning supplies and paint). Studies show reduced levels of these chemical irritants can result in a dramatic decrease in absenteeism due to chronic respiratory illnesses.

Balance humidity levels

Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can also have a direct impact on the comfort and concentration levels of students and staff. Moderate changes in room temperature can affect a student’s ability to concentrate on mental tasks such as multiplication, addition and sentence comprehension. High humidity levels can make the air feel sticky and provide a breeding ground for mold, mildew, dust mites and bacteria. What’s more, high relative air humidity has been linked to asthma prevalence in schools.

Humidity control in schools has become increasingly problematic, as today’s building designs require more outdoor air ventilation that in turn, brings more moisture into the air. Keeping relative humidity levels between 50% and 60% will help improve comfort and reduce the spread of allergens that could lead to absenteeism and long-term health problems such as asthma.

While high-efficiency filters can handle some of the load, a dehumidification system is necessary to help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Installing a high-efficiency HVAC system can also assist with indoor temperature control as part of a total IAQ solution. Try: a dehumidification system that removes moisture based on humidity levels—not temperature—like Lennox’ patented Humiditrol® dehumidification system.

Keep carbon dioxide levels in check

Increased indoor pollutant concentrations and lower ventilation rates have been proven to result in a significant reduction in students’ mental performance. Additionally, a lack of adequate fresh air in the classroom can make students drowsy and uncomfortable, further reducing their ability to perform.

But studies show that reducing concentrations of carbon dioxide, combined with higher ventilation rates, can reverse these unfavorable effects.

Demand control ventilation systems, which help exchange and dilute contaminated indoor air with fresher, cleaner outdoor air, are an ideal choice for schools. By using sensors to introduce fresh air into a building based on carbon dioxide levels, these systems help keep proper IAQ levels in check.

Not only does this help improve IAQ levels, but it can also help lower energy usage. Demand control ventilation systems only bring in and condition outside air when necessary, helping schools save money while delivering a great learning environment.

Do away with mold and dander

A primary cause of school absenteeism, asthma, accounts for 10 million missed school days per year. Schools can decrease children’s exposure to common asthma triggers, such as animal dander (from class pets or science projects), cockroaches, mold and dust mites (found in carpeting, upholstered furniture, pillows and stuffed toys) by implementing better IAQ control. High-efficiency air filters and germicidal lights are ideal for lowering levels of dust, mold and dander in the air. In addition, wash toys often, place pillows in dust-proof covers and vacuum classrooms regularly. Ready to improve your school’s IAQ?

Lennox offers a variety of products to help students and staff breathe easier, including:

  • Energence® high efficiency rooftop units
  • Humiditrol dehumidification systems
  • Demand control ventilation systems
  • Energy recovery systems
  • High-efficiency air filters
  • UVC germicidal lights

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