Indoor Air Quality In Schools — What Should We Be Doing to Protect Our Childrens’ Lungs?
Adequate ventilation and air filtration has been an instrumental part of public efforts to reduce COVID-19 infection rates. However, improving air quality is essential for improving overall public health, even in the presence of dangerous viral or other pathogens. As some jurisdictions consider reopening schools for young children and adolescents to attend in person, students and teachers must have protection from poor indoor air quality.
Why is poor indoor air quality harmful to children?
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality because they inhale a larger volume of air in proportion to the size of their bodies per breath than adults do, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This also means they proportionally inhale a larger volume of harmful particulate matter and chemicals.
Many school buildings are heavily affected by pollution from outdoor sources especially when located next to a busy road. Buildings themselves often emit dangerous particles and chemical pollutants. Older buildings may release toxic gas residue from outdated building materials, cheap furniture is prone to giving off formaldehyde, and heavy-duty cleaning chemicals leave behind residue that is dangerous to the lungs.
Though COVID-19 infection is uncommon and rarely fatal among children and adolescents relative to infection and morbidity rates in older adults, unprotected children are at risk for transmitting the virus to family members who may be in risk groups. It is also worth noting that cleaner air is a predictor of improved cognitive processes and greater productivity, allowing children to gain more from their learning environment, while poor air quality correlates with a variety of poor health outcomes and has been linked to decreased school attendance.
The benefits of improving indoor air quality in Canadian schools
A robust body of scientific evidence continually shows that better air quality has extensive benefits for people of all ages, including:
- Cleaner, healthier lungs
- Better immune system
- Longer lifespan
- Reduced allergy and asthma symptoms
- Improved mood
- Improved productivity
Recommendations for Ventilation and Filtration from the World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, if possible, clean, natural ventilation should be used without recirculating air. In other words, schools should keep the windows open to increase the total airflow to occupied spaces.
While keeping windows open may be practical in the spring and early fall, what about the harsh winters most of Canada experiences? What about schools in high-traffic areas located next to busy roads or other outdoor sources of pollution, where open windows would introduce significant long-term health risks?
The WHO additionally recommends, particularly for cases where natural ventilation is not possible, that HVAC systems should be running at maximum airflow for two hours before and after the building is occupied. Regular inspections, maintenance, and cleaning, as well as adhering to rigorous standards for installation and filtration are essential to make sure the systems are effective and safe.
Recommendations for Ventilation and Filtration from the Centers for Disease Control
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) emphasizes that COVID-19 is much more communicable indoors than outdoors because even a very light breeze disperses infected particles, therefore decreasing the probability of someone inhaling them. According to the CDC, “ventilation mitigation strategies help to offset the absence of natural wind and reduce the concentration of viral particles in the indoor air.”
The CDC has issued the following recommendations for improving central airflow in public schools and other community buildings:
- Increase air filtration to as high as possible without significantly reducing design airflow.
- Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate air filter fit and check for ways to minimize filter bypass.
- Check air filters to ensure they are within their service life and appropriately installed.
- Consult an air filtration specialist to ensure that your HVAC system is optimized to improve central airflow.
Expert-Approved Air Filtration Solutions for Classrooms and Public Schools in Canadian Schools
Air filtration experts from Camfil, one of the world’s leading air filtration manufacturers and researchers, recommend the following supplemental air filtration systems for schools. Both recommendations are standalone systems, which means that they work independently of the space’s HVAC system. It may be possible to upgrade your HVAC system’s air filtration; however, before doing so, it is important to contact your local air filtration specialist to find out which options are right for your building. Installing filters with a higher efficiency could lessen airflow throughout the building and defeat the benefits of higher ventilation rates, which is why it’s beneficial to consult with a trained air filtration specialist.
Camfil’s City M Air Purifier
The City M Air Purifier is a very quiet device that includes a HEPA-grade particulate filter and a molecular filter that work in conjunction with one another to remove dust, contaminants, harmful VOCs and odors for healthier indoor air. The City M Air Purifier consumes 50% less energy than units of similar size.
Camfil’s CamCleaner CC500
The CamCleaner CC500 air purifier was originally designed early in the pandemic for hospitals that needed to create negatively pressurized isolation areas. The unit also serves as a standalone air purifier for offices, schools, and other public buildings. The CC500’s MERV-9/9A prefilter extends the life of the 99.99% HEPA filter, leading to lower overall running and maintenance costs.
About Camfil Clean Air Solutions Canada
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at https://www.camfil.com/en-ca/
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