Scientists and educators in the United States have long been concerned about the number of students exposed to hazardous amounts of airborne contaminants at school. Air pollution is especially troublesome when schools are built near major roads and industrial zones with high pollution levels. Unfortunately, because many schools are already struggling to offer essential services and basic amenities to kids, they cannot afford to install commercial air filtration systems to prevent outside air pollution from infiltrating classrooms, halls, and other school facilities. So, does air pollution impact school absence, and what are the ramifications for our children?
Why Does Air Pollution Cause a Higher Rate of School Absence?
Unfortunately, the students are the ones that will pay the price for the effects of exposure to air pollution. The University of Utah performed a study showing that the number of school absences frequently doubles the day after a red air day—when ambient or outdoor air quality measurements have reached harmful levels.
The study, which looked at student attendance data, discovered that even a slight increase in airborne pollution caused a significant increase in the number of student absences the next day.
However, the study’s findings raise further problems for the researchers. If bad air quality is the reason for students missing class, is it due to physiological or psychological factors?
In other words, the researchers are unsure if the pupils have a school absence because they are unwell after a red air day or because they or their parents believe it is safer to remain home and prevent being sick from inhaling polluted air.
Why Are Schools Susceptible to Poor Indoor Air Quality?
It is not only air pollution from outside sources that causes difficulties with school air quality. Students are often influenced by poor indoor air quality because of the school buildings themselves.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics study of school districts in the United States, the average age of main school buildings in the country was 55 years old—this suggests that the average school building was built in the 1950s and early 1960s.
And more often than not, structures built during this period were meant to keep the elements out, which is excellent if you want to keep external air pollution out. But what about pollution from within the school?
Many buildings were erected and modified with greater insulation, tighter windows and doors, and vapor barriers in the 1960s and 1970s to limit heat transmission and prevent cold air from entering structures. Unfortunately, this has aided in the accumulation of moisture and contaminants from indoor sources within buildings. In cash-strapped school districts, at least one building will require substantial repairs, exposing kids to air pollution—a concern that impacts more than half of the buildings in need of repairs.
As if that weren’t enough, historic structures are known to emit radon—a colorless gas naturally created by soil—and asbestos vapors. Both gases are harmful and have been linked to respiratory issues and cancer.
Why Do Schools Need High-Quality, High-Efficiency Air Filtration Systems?
These causes contribute to a quiet environmental disaster in schools across the country. But, in reality, research on environmental pollution conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered that when large groups of people congregate, levels of interior air pollution may be up to five times higher than levels of outdoor air pollution. These levels might be devastating for schools, where children spend more than eight hours a day, five days a week, in classrooms, halls, cafeterias, and gyms. Fortunately, more and more school administrators are becoming aware of these risks. As a result, many school buildings across the United States are now installing high-efficiency air filtration systems that catch and eliminate airborne contaminants, which can help reduce school absence and protects the health of students and staff.
Commercial-grade air filtration systems with high-efficiency air filters are critical in schools. A high volume of people in motion can disturb the particles on surfaces like floors, lockers, tables, and chairs, causing them to become airborne and contribute to air pollution. Additionally, large crowds indicate high amounts of bacteria, viruses, and other airborne germs, which attach to particles like dead skin cells and dust.
Data Shows Commercial High-Efficiency Air Filters Reduces School Absence
Another research, published in the journal Environmental Research, reveals what sort of air pupils at public schools throughout the country are breathing. Using census data and previous EPA studies, the study team mapped out air pollution levels in more than 90,000 public schools throughout the US to determine which school districts need the most commercial high-efficiency air filters.
The researchers discovered that just one percent of all assessed schools received the EPA’s highest possible indoor air quality score. Furthermore, schools in Chicago, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and New York have the worst air quality. In addition, half of the ten schools with the worst levels of air pollution are in low-income school districts.
The Advantages of High-Efficiency Commercial Air Filters in Schools
Commercial high-efficiency air filters provide the following advantages in schools:
- Reduced student absenteeism – While the University of Utah study was unable to determine whether or not air pollution caused students to become ill, there is ample evidence that exposure to air pollution causes adverse health effects. We can reasonably infer that having clean air in schools helps prevent pupils from acquiring asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders, linked to air pollution exposure.
- Reduced teacher and school staff absences – Clean air within school buildings deliver the same health advantages as the outside air, preventing teachers and support staff from being ill and missing work. In addition, reduced teacher absenteeism lowers the expense of bringing in substitute instructors.
- Attendance data is frequently used to determine state funding to schools — Most states compensate schools in the form of financial aid depending on student attendance. Therefore, school absence due to poor air quality can significantly impact a school’s financial sustainability.
Work with An Expert in Commercial Air Filtration
While connecting an air filtration system to a centralized HVAC system or an in-wall vent helps to improve indoor air quality in schools, it may benefit the school to bring in professionals to examine the school building’s layout, size, and presence of any particular pollutant.
Filti manufactures commercial air filtration technologies to address poor air quality for homes, schools, municipal buildings, hospitals, airports, and commercial facilities. Our nanofiber technology filters help clean the air for a safer environment. We suggest using a MERV 13 filter in schools to reduce school absence rates caused by pollution. Contact Filti to learn more about our commercial air filtration products for schools.