Twenty percent of the U.S. population, nearly 55 million people, spend their days in our elementary and secondary schools. Studies show that one-half of our nation’s 115,000 schools have problems linked to indoor air quality. Students are at greater risk because of the hours spent in school facilities and because children are especially susceptible to pollutants. The health and comfort of students and teachers are among the many factors that contribute to learning and productivity in the classroom, which in turn affect performance and achievement.
IAQ What Schools should test for
As part of an effective IAQ management program, schools should test for radon to know if radon levels are elevated — and if so, reduce risks to occupants through radon mitigation. Radon testing is inexpensive and certainly outweight the risk.
Pesticides play an important role in food supply protection and disease control, but they can also be harmful to human health. The term pesticide applies to insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, disinfectants and various other substances used to control pests. Pesticides are often applied at schools to maintain sanitary conditions and suppress rodents and insect populations. Exposures and potential health effects to children and school staff can be reduced by avoiding routine pesticide applications through an integrated pest management (IPM) program.
In recent years, EPA has learned that caulk containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was used in some buildings, including schools, in the 1950s through the 1970s. Buildings built after 1980 are less likely to contain caulk that contains PCBs.
Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps to make windows, masonry and joints in buildings and other structures watertight or airtight. EPA does not have information on the extent of the use of PCB-containing caulk or whether it was primarily used in certain geographic areas. To date it has been found in buildings in the northeastern United States and in joints in concrete water storage basins in the western United States. Source: EPA – Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics
Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
EMF – Electromagnetic Field
The kinds of wireless and RF exposures to be aware of fall into three categories: 1) Wireless Technologies, 2) Dirty Electricity and 3) Radio Towers and Radar.
1. Wireless Technologies. The first exposure is what you would expect—wireless exposures from cell towers, cell phones, wireless routers and networks, wireless computer equipment (mice, printers, keyboards, etc.), microwave ovens, as well as wireless medical monitoring equipment, wireless energy management systems, “smart” utility meters and grids, etc. It also includes radiation emitted between the handset and base unit of a portable phone, though many people do not realize portable phones emit microwave radiation like cell phones.
2. Dirty Electricity. The second category of concern is radiofrequency radiation (RF) that gets on the wiring in homes, offices and schools. One can think of it as radiofrequency ‘noise’ superimposed upon a 60-hertz electrical current. This is called dirty power, dirty electricity or ‘high frequency transients.’ This noise is a result of various factors, including electronic equipment inside a building that must convert between alternating and direct current. Dirty electricity also gets onto wiring from high RF environments outside, and from dirty power associated with operation of cell towers in a neighborhood.
Compact fluorescent bulbs and dimmer switches also create dirty electricity, as do many other ‘green technologies,’ such as solar panels, though generally speaking the ‘green building’ field is mostly focused on ‘green materials’ and energy efficiency and not yet on electromagnetic fields. Dirty electricity is carried throughout the electrical circuit in a building irrespective of where it originated. So even if a compact fluorescent bulb is not being used in a given classroom, for example, or there is not electronic equipment in a room, if dirty electricity is being generated somewhere else along the electrical circuit serving that room from CFLs or electronics, children and teachers in that room are potentially impacted, as well.
3. Radio Towers and Radar. Finally, if a school is near sources of radio transmission, such as emergency communications transmitters (police, fire, medical), a broadcast radio or TV tower, or even an amateur radio transmitter, it is important to check the levels of radiofrequency exposure. Radar at airports, weather monitoring facilities, near highways or found aboard ferries, are also microwave sources to consider.
All of these forms of radiofrequency radiation (and microwave radiation, in the case of wireless technologies, a subset of radiofrequency radiation) can be measured and resolved so students, teachers and staff can operate without these biologically disruptive fields in their midst.
It is important schools minimize all of the above fields in learning environments because, besides the long-term effects not being fully understood, exposures have been linked to: ADD, memory difficulties, irritability, stress, interpersonal disorders, heart irregularities and much more.
By having a more complete EMF framework, you will be empowered to create safe learning environments, free of unnecessary electromagnetic interference for all…teachers, students and staff.
These are just a few of the potential air quality issues in schools.
Follow the link for resourses to evaluate indoor air quality in schools
Here are some IAQ Champions in Region I
TP Environmental Consulting does full IAQ Inspections in Schools. Call or email me for a overview and cost. firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-991-0171