IAQ concerns are becoming a priority across the nation. Commercial and residential customers alike are finding that the quality of air in their facility can have a significant effect on health and productivity. 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 IAQ can affect the comfort of students as well as staff. This in turn can affect concentration, attendance, and student performance.

Continued studies reveal that poor IAQ can also 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, IAQ can be considered 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.

The following steps should help contractors maintain their current school customers’ IAQ.

Reduce chemical pollutants. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies of human exposure to air pollutants show that indoor levels may be two to five times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. 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; bioaerosols — 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 percent should help improve comfort and reduce the spread of allergens.

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.

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. 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, could be 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. Considered a primary cause of school absenteeism and asthma, mold and dander induced conditions account for approximately 10 million missed school days per year. Schools can decrease children’s exposure to common asthma triggers, such as animal dander, cockroaches, mold, and dust mites 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.

For more information, visit www.lennoxcommercial.com.

Publication date: 01/09/2012