Why are schools a concern?
Approximately 74 million children and 3.5 million teachers spend their days in schools for nine to ten months each year. Schools include both indoor and outdoor spaces that can pose health risks to students, teachers, and school staff.
Poor indoor air quality in schools can cause health effects, including asthma and respiratory problems. Mold and moisture can cause asthma and allergic reactions. Chemicals from school building or maintenance materials can cause allergic reactions or long-term health effects. Dust mites and pest residues in schools can cause asthma and respiratory problems.
Pesticides used in schools can be especially harmful to children, who may be sensitive to the health risks of pesticides because their internal organs are still developing. Children are also especially sensitive to lead, which may be in school drinking water. Mercury may be used in many items commonly found in schools, such as thermometers, switches, thermostats, lamps, and laboratory equipment.
Schools in certain areas of the county may have high levels of radon, which can cause lung cancer if people are exposed to it over a long period of time. Older schools may contain insulation or pipes made with asbestos, which can cause lung cancer if people are exposed to high levels of it over a long period of time.
Portable classrooms, also called temporaries or trailers, can have poorly functioning or loud ventilation systems, water seepage and mold growth, and use processed wood that has been treated with chemicals.
Students and school staff can be exposed to diesel fumes and other outdoor air pollutants if they are outdoors where school buses are parked and idling.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Asthma in Children
Indoor Air Pollution
Asbestos. School Buildings (Environmental Protection Agency)
Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids (Environmental Protection Agency)
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Creating Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools (Environmental Protection Agency)
Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools (Environmental Protection Agency)
Indoor Air Quality: Is It a Problem at Your Child's School? (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) (PDF — 88.28 KB)
Managing Asthma in the School Environment (Environmental Protection Agency)
Managing Pests in Schools (Environmental Protection Agency)
Reducing Pesticide Exposure at Schools (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
Sensible Steps to Healthier School Environments (Environmental Protection Agency) (PDF — 1.75 MB)
The Green Squad (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Chemicals at School
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC)
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: January 12, 2016