February 21, 2013 at 17:40 PM EST
Healthier Schools Can Lead To Smarter Students

Here are the facts:  More than half of the nation’s schools have environmental deficiencies that adversely affect indoor air quality.  Poor indoor air quality causes illness and can greatly diminish learning potential.  In the 1980s, the number of children with asthma increased 60 percent.  Asthma is the number one cause of absenteeism in schools.


The science is clear: physical environmental stressors in schools measurably and significantly affect children’s achievement. A breakthrough came in 2006, when the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council released Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning. According to a Greening Americas Schools: Costs and Benefits publication “healthy schools can reduce asthma 40% and upper respiratory infections nearly 70% by adopting best practices to improve IAQ - and reduce absenteeism and improve productivity in the process.” The report further estimates that a new, average-sized healthy school can reduce asthma incidence 25%, which translates to 20 fewer children a year with asthma and a savings of $33,000.

Since then, the evidence has continued to mount. For instance, in 2011, the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine released Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health, finding that “[p]oor indoor environmental quality is creating health problems today and impairs the ability of occupants to work and learn.”


For years, studies have reported that poor IAQ can cause illnesses, forcing some kids to miss school.  According to the American Lung Association more than ten million school days are missed each year due to asthma alone.  Now, data suggests that poor IAQ can reduce a person’s ability to perform specific mental tasks requiring concentration, calculation, or memory.  How has this happened and how bad is the problem?  And what is being done to protect our children and to provide a safe learning environment?


The poor maintenance of school environments can cause or intensify illnesses among children and their teachers, resulting in higher rates of absenteeism, less time in the classroom, and ultimately, reduced academic achievement. But programs that promote healthy indoor air quality, or IAQ, have been known to dramatically improve health, increase students’ ability to learn, improve test scores, and improve adult productivity in the school system leading to smarter students.


Charlotte County School District has implemented a "Green Cleaning" program to not only save energy but also to improve indoor air quality and mitigate long-term health risks and allergies associated with indoor air pollutants.  This program introduces a chemical free coil cleaning process called PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning a safe and effective cleaning process used to save energy and create a healthy learning environment for students, school staff and visitors.

As a part the Charlotte County School District IAQ Initiative for Healthy Schools they contracted with Pure Air Control Services a national leading indoor environmental contractor with over 25 years of building IAQ experience.  Because the PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning program is totally GREEN (NO CHEMICALS) students, school staff and visitors don’t have to worry about potential dangerous chemicals or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) entering into the air or water system.

Don Terry, Manager of HVAC Maintenance noted that “not only are we saving energy, but we are creating a healthy learning environment for our students and faculty.”

One of the biggest health alerts in school today is asthma, a chronic disease that accounts for a half million hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths a year.  Asthma affects 29 million people -- 4.8 million of them are children -- and the cost of treating the disease is a staggering $3.6 billion.  Numerous studies find that indoor irritants, long suspected of influencing asthma rates in children, could be the key to asthma problems in children.

While these statistics are alarming, few schools in the country are adequately addressing the problem of indoor air quality (IAQ).  “We cram many more students into a classroom than we do adults in offices, and we expect them to learn huge amounts of information every day,” said John B. Lyons, author of Do School Facilities Really Impact a Child’s Education.   “Adults working in these types of environments would probably sue their employer, but kids don’t recognize signs of bad indoor air quality and are really dependent on their teachers and school administrators to take action.  Compounding the problem is that these issues are so complex, that school districts often don’t have the expertise internally to really make all the right decisions about improving their facilities.”

According to Alan Wozniak, president of Pure Air Control Services, a national indoor environmental consulting firm, keeping a regular maintenance schedule of the HVAC system can help reduce irritants that lead to a healthier school and subsequently smarter students.

“Our company has investigated the IAQ in over 10,000 buildings over the past 30 years, including thousands of schools for environmental inefficiencies such as mold, bacteria, endotoxins and dust mites, and we’ve found that in more than half the cases, there was an increased amount of microbial degradation due to neglected regular maintenance on routine housekeeping and HVAC systems,” Wozniak said.

What can schools do:

  • Maintain an accurate school absenteeism and asthma log record.
  • Maintain a regimented maintenance schedule for the HVAC systems.
  • Maintain a IAQ Complaint Log and follow up complaints with action
  • Watch for stained ceiling tiles that may indicate roof leaks, which may mean mold.
  • Watch for vents that may be blocked which decreases ventilation and affects indoor air quality.
  • Space heaters under teachers’ desks could point to an ineffective comfort control system.
  • Maintain effective communication with staff, students and parents on IAQ concerns and/or complaint
  • Provide a predictive maintenance program including building envelop, HVAC, evaporator coils, housekeeping
  • Utilize EPA’s Tools For Schools which is based on an action kit providing all the materials necessary to promote a low-cost, problem-solving team approach to improving IAQ.

What can parents do:

  • Is your child coughing and sneezing more?
  • Is your child experiencing increased allergies?
  • Is your child experiencing increased upper respiratory problems?
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