Why Learn About School Air Quality

April 30th, 2012 by Sarah

Holes in the ceiling and exposed wires in a classroom at Southern Middle School in Reading, Pennsylvania. Photo: Cindy Long

Air; it’s all around us but we rarely think about how air quality impacts our lives.  Early this year in a Toxic Schools edition of CNN’s Toxic America program, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that an estimated one third of public schools in the United States currently have indoor air quality problems.  He also noted that the number of schools with air quality issues is likely to get worse due to budgetary restrictions in this difficult economic climate.

In addition to the variety of respiratory problems that have been linked to poor air quality, recent studies have also shown that indoor air quality can directly impact student health and academic performance. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental conditions, such as indoor air quality, because their bodies are still developing.

Why Should YOU Learn More About Air Quality

There is no better time than the present to learn about air quality, but if you need an extra reason to do so – tomorrow kicks-off Asthma Awareness Month! Poor air quality, indoors and outdoors, can cause and exacerbate asthma.  In May 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Communities in Action Asthma Initiative will support local programs working to help people in their communities bring asthma under control.

Though there are currently no mandatory air quality standards specific to classrooms or schools in the United States, in March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new, draft State K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines for public comment. The voluntary adoption of this program by K-12 schools would be a great step towards improving air quality in our schools.

How Can YOU Learn More About Air Quality

There are a number of resources that can help school systems, administrators, teachers, and families create a healthy school environment and improve air quality. Some of these resources are linked below:

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Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.


  1. Great blog! I feel it’s important to provide our youth with the best environment in which to grow and learn. In general, good indoor air helps students to focus and stay alert. But it also may be a necessity for students that have asthma and allergies. Check out what one Virginia school did to ensure clean air for all its students and staff.

    Comment by UltimateAir — May 7, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

  2. Thanks for your comment UltimateAir! We appreciate your feedback and agree that air quality is an important, often overlooked component of student health in our schools.

    Comment by Sarah — May 11, 2012 @ 11:56 am

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