According to the Department of Education and the U.S. General Accounting Office, about 20 percent of the nation's schools have problems linked to indoor air quality (IAQ). Poor IAQ can directly affect the comfort and health of the students, teachers and staff who spend their days in elementary and secondary schools. Numerous studies have linked poor IAQ to respiratory illnesses, allergy and asthma symptoms, headaches and fatigue — problems that can lead to student and teacher absences and productivity problems in the short-term, and chronic illness in the long-term.
The issue of IAQ is so important that several state legislatures are addressing it. Most of the proposed legislation centers on developing standards and guidelines for school IAQ, and inspecting schools to ensure good IAQ for students, teachers and staff. The Environmental Protection Agency offers IAQ Tools for Schools — a program that provides strategies for helping schools prevent and resolve IAQ issues.
Good IAQ depends on many factors. One is effective filtration, which provides the primary defense for building occupants and HVAC equipment against particular pollutants. Fortunately, higher standards in filtration have made it possible to produce cleaner, purer air and reduce IAQ problems. This contributes to a better learning environment for students, improved performance among teachers and staff, and an overall sense of comfort, health and well-being.
The average human breathes in about 16,000 quarts of air each day. And each quart of air we breathe has about 70,000 visible and invisible particles. The EPA notes that indoor air often is more polluted (typically two to five times more and occasionally 100+ times more) than outdoor air. Most of the “respirable” dust and particles people breathe into their lungs is about three microns or smaller — a fraction of the size of a grain of sand.