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Classroom Ventilation Affects Learning Outcomes
by Lourdes Salvador
Parents are addressing air quality issues at their children´s schools with increasing frequency. Commonly addressed issues include poor ventilation, mold, fragrance, new carpeting, pesticides, and a myriad of cleaning products used on a routine basis to maintain schools.
Now, researchers at the University of Tulsa, Indoor Air Program agree that increasing the ventilation rates in classrooms translates into improved academic achievement for students.
The researchers studied 100 elementary schools in the US in two different districts. Ventilation rates were measured along with students´ standardized test scores.
Eighty-seven of the 100 classrooms evaluated had ventilation rates below the recommended guidelines, indicating a need for the average school to improve indoor air quality.
The results of the study found that for every unit of ventilation rate increase, 2.9% more students passed the standardized test for math and reading. This is a significant finding in terms of academic achievement.
Increasing ventilation rates reduces the amount of contaminants in the air. Less pollution and better air allows students to think and focus better. Symptoms of attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities appear to also diminish when ventilation rates and air quality improve.
Other methods of reducing indoor air pollution include the use of fragrance free, non-toxic cleaning products, avoiding the use of fragranced personal care products by students and staff, cleaning up mold and mildew, avoiding pesticide use or using an integrative pest management practice, and using low or no-voc, non-toxic materials for building and renovations. This would include no-voc paints and avoiding varnishes, floor waxes, carpets, and other materials which release gases in to the air.
One common product that has made its way into schools that pollutes indoor air is hand sanitizer. These germicidal products contain both fragrance and ingredients which are registered pesticides. Instead of relying on hand sanitizers, schools can encourage hand washing and provide fragrance free, non-toxic soap in restrooms.
Scientific evidence shows that better air means better grades and better behavior. Many schools are starting to take this seriously and creating new policies and procedures. Still others are resistant to change either due to time or perceived increased cost of initiating new procedures, and sometimes simply due to long-standing habits.
Yet the change is for the benefit of students, which means cost savings long term for special education and remedial programs. Oftentimes a change to less toxic products also means less cost for on-the-job injuries.
The bottom line is that the nation´s kids matter and to do their best in class, research shows they need clean air!
Haverinen-Shaughnessy U, Moschandreas DJ, Shaughnessy RJ. Association between substandard classroom ventilation rates and students' academic achievement. Indoor Air. 2010 Aug 24. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2010.00686.x. [Epub ahead of print]
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2010 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America