Why is Indoor Air Quality in schools important?

In recent year, indoor air quality in schools has been receiving a lot of attention. Children spend a huge amount of their time indoors while at school. Environmental ventilation influences the level of indoor air pollution in schools, which is often of poor. In fact, poorly ventilated schools often present elevated CO2 levels. Moreover there are many other pollutants such as bacteria, moulds, VOCs and PM. The concentration of these pollutants is a major issue in schools as it often results in respiratory and/or allergic symptoms and diseases in occupants.

Studies on Indoor air quality

Two European studies, the Respiratory Health of Children (RESEARCH) Study** and the EU-funded Health Effects of School Environment (HESE) Study**, both using the same standardised procedure, have provided data from different countries, showing the average 1-day indoor PM10 concentration in schools across Europe (See the image below).

Average 1-day indoor concentrations of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter <10 μm (PM 10) measured in classrooms in various European countries. The line at 50 μg·m -3 represents the EU max daily value allowed for outdoors environments.

The interesting fact is that European countries have a PM concentration threshold of 50 μg·m -3 as a max daily value for outdoor environments, while in most countries indoor PM10 values in Schools are significantly higher than outdoors. ***

The importance of Indoor Air Quality

People spend almost 90% of their time indoors. To protect children in schools, indoor air pollutants must be minimised and indoor air quality must be monitored to ensure it is ventilated properly.

Indoor air quality is influenced by outdoor air, specific indoor pollution sources and lack of air recirculation. Concentrations of some pollutants may be even 2 to 5 times higher indoor than outdoor. This have been a well knows issue for some time. In fact, workplace indoor exposure is conventionally treated as ‘occupational exposure’, but that is not always the case in schools.

In fact, the EU-funded European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA), has recently pointed out that Indoor Air Quality in schools is largely ignored in many countries.****

The importance of Indoor Air Quality at school

We often find increasing levels of common indoor pollutants in schools. This is mainly due to poorly constructed building and maintenance, poor cleaning and, most importantly, poor ventilation. This is something that needs urgent attention and rectification as Indoor Air Quality is particularly important for children. In fact, because children are still developing their immune systems, they inhale a higher volume of air per bodyweight than adults.

The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), an independent scientific committee managed by the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission, reported that more than 900 different compounds can be detected in indoor air, and most of them derive from human activity. For example CO2 which is a product of human respiration. Elevated levels of CO2 may be reached in crowded indoor environments with inadequate air exchange. Allergens – mainly related to dust, damp, pets or insects, but also entering from outdoors – and infectious agents play an important role in indoor pollution. Exposure to indoor pollutants increases the risk of many respiratory/allergic symptoms or diseases such as asthma, for example.

Indoor Air Quality is fundamental in improving the overall quality of life and productivity of children and adolescents, especially if there is already a history is respiratory diseases. The installation of mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems is an effective solution to reduce airborne allergens. Such a solution may result in a significant decline in respiratory problems, such as breathlessness during exercise, wheezing, and coughing.

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Increasing and improving ventilation and Indoor Air Quality inschoolsequals to improving respiratory health of children. There is a growing interest in this matter; therefore, programmes and public health initiatives to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution will be soon a reality that facilities like schools will have to be ready to deal with. Will you be ready as well?

Take a look at the Daikin Applied UK AHU range and ventilation solutions for applications like schools and see how Daikin Applied UK can help you to improve indoor air quality in schools. Get in touch with our experts using the form below and get their help in no time.


** RESEARCH: School Environment And Respiratory Health of Children; HESE: Health Effects of School Environment.

*** Indoor Air Pollution in Schools (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281360322_The_EFA_project_Indoor_air_quality_in_European_schools)

**** https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/particulate-matter-pm10-daily-limit-value-for-the-protection-of-human-health-6