Monitoring Classroom Air Quality For Better Student Performance

Classroom Air Quality

Have you ever thought about indoor air quality (IAQ) in school environments? According to many research studies, nearly fifty percent of schools in the US have poor IAQ because of the age and bad condition of buildings.

Apart from having adverse effects on the health of students, poor indoor air quality is believed to increase absenteeism, reduce productivity, and affect test scores negatively. The cognitive performance of students is much higher in healthier environments, such as ventilated classrooms. Consequently, parents are rightfully concerned about the academic performance and health of their children.

Classroom Air Quality

Fortunately, there are various monitoring systems designed to manage air health risks in schools. The largest part of monitoring devices, such as the Zeptive air quality monitors, are easy to use and install.

Learn how monitoring classroom IAQ can improve student performance.

Causes of bad indoor air quality

A large number of schools cope with poor IAQ due to a variety of causes, including improper system installation, closed instead of open-air dumpers to conserve energy, a lack of maintenance, a lack of humidity control, poor ventilation, water damage, indoor and outdoor pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pollen, airborne germs, etc.

The reduction or blockage of fresh air into school facilities reduces IAQ. The leading source of such pollution is the chemical emissions from cleaning agents, building materials, and furnishings. These types of pollutants are known as volatile organic compounds, which have the capacity to trigger allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. The ventilation rate should be maintained at an optimal level to make sure fresh air is continuously incorporated.

The impact of poor IAQ in schools

Student performance in schools is largely affected by indoor air quality, as it has an influence on their performance and attendance. Poor IAQ is to blame for student and staff absenteeism and a lack of productivity. An improvement in indoor air quality is believed to boost the test scores of students, as well as their attendance.

The impact of poor IAQ in schools

High CO2 levels in school facilities are not only responsible for affecting the concentration of students but also for worsening the symptoms of asthma and allergies in children suffering from such conditions. The percentage of students having asthma and allergies has increased dramatically compared to the past.

Consequently, schools are expected to provide children with a healthy indoor environment, which is under constant monitoring. Learn more about the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and diagnosis of asthma in children.

Moreover, pupils and educators might develop a Sick Building Syndrome, which occurs in facilities where IAQ is compromised. When being inside such buildings, staff and children experience symptoms like itchy skin, headaches, sore eyes, sore throat, fatigue, etc. It’s a serious threat to the health of the youngest pupils whose immune systems aren’t fully developed yet.

As previously mentioned, a fair portion of student absenteeism is triggered by allergies and asthma induced by the poor air quality in schools. There’s a direct correlation between school performance and absence rates. The performance of students is worse as their rate of absenteeism increases.

Poor IAQ not only leads to pupils’ absenteeism but to staff absence as well. Teachers, just like students, are susceptible to illnesses caused by working in an unhealthy school environment. In certain institutions, substitute staff must be hired to cover the absent educators, which is likely to have a negative effect on the achievement of pupils.

The introduction of substitute staff is believed to disrupt the routine of pupils and hinder their learning. According to some research, the test scores of students working with a substitute teacher for more than four weeks are lower than those achieved when working with their permanent teacher. The improvement in IAQ is believed to reduce staff sick days.

Pupils, on the other hand, become more accurate at word recognition and improve their memory. Monitoring IAQ levels is the only way for schools to handle impracticalities, such as pupil and staff absenteeism.

Signs of bad IAQ

IAQ is an essential safety and health concern for schools, as inadequate levels lead to increased health issues, absenteeism, productivity loss, etc. There’s a wide range of indoor air contaminants present in school facilities, and each of them originates from different sources. For instance, carbon dioxide (CO2) originates from building occupants and fuel combustion from oil and gas furnaces.

Other contaminants include dust, asbestos, fiberglass, and gases from building materials. Volatile organic compounds mentioned previously come from carpets, printing machines, cleansers, furnishings, pesticides, glues, paints, and solvents. In contrast, dust mites mainly originate from carpets. The following link, https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/dust-mites, explains the symptoms of dust mite allergies.

Moreover, dump areas and stagnant water release microbial contaminants, molds, and fungi. Conversely, ozone is released from electrostatic air cleaners and photocopiers. All of these contaminants trigger a myriad of symptoms, most of which are similar to cold symptoms. Students exposed to bad IAQ usually mistake these symptoms with those of having a cold or the flu, such as sneezing, coughing, dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, irritated eyes, sore throat, sinus congestion, etc.

The easiest way to determine whether these symptoms are caused by poor indoor air quality is to notice if they appear and disappear at certain times of the day. For example, if you experience discomfort after spending several hours at school but feel much better when you arrive home, you aren’t likely to have a cold.

Apart from triggering cold symptoms, inadequate IAQ might cause unexplained skin rashes. Redness, irritated skin, and dry skin are among the most common signs of being affected by indoor air pollutants.

How can schools improve IAQ?

The ultimate objective of schools is to create a safe and healthy environment for pupils, educators, and the rest of the staff to protect their health and improve their performance. There are various practices they can implement to make environmental improvements. One of these practices is the implementation of displacement ventilation systems that not only improve air quality but also reduce energy consumption by ventilating the zone that’s occupied.

The role of displacement diffusers is to incorporate fresh outdoor air into the indoor atmosphere to create neutral air, which is approximately the same temperature as room temperature. In contrast, occupancy sensors are in charge of energy and ventilation use. These sensors rely on infrared and ultrasonic waves to detect rooms that are empty in order to stop the ventilation system.

Furthermore, carbon dioxide sensors are responsible for maintaining optimal IAQ by monitoring its levels. They adjust ventilation automatically to keep the levels optimized. These systems are easy to install and use, and they continuously monitor school environments. The data gathered from monitoring can be used for schools to make informed decisions, such as making improvements to ventilation systems.

Radiant flooring is another investment schools are encouraged to make in an attempt to improve IAQ. These systems provide better thermal comfort by distributing heat equally across the room. The surface is heated up to eighty degrees, and the heat ends up radiating into the air. In contrast, conventional systems blow heat into the room and affect IAQ.

A final note

The health and performance of pupils are of vital importance to every school.

Therefore, optimal IAQ is a must!

Anand Narayanaswamy is the editor-in-chief of Netans. He was recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 9 years (2002 to 2011) and again as a Microsoft MVP in Surface under Windows and Devices in January 2024. He worked as a Chief Technical Editor with ASPAlliance and was part of ASPInsider program. Anand has published several articles and reviews related to various software and hardware products for various software and technology related websites. He is also active on social media and also participates as an Influencer for various brands. Anand can be reached at admin@netans.com

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