The Importance of Clean Air for Education
Tuesday 23 March 2021
Tackling air pollution is going to be one of the greatest challenges of our generation. It’s vital that we do something about it given that children are so susceptible to dirty air and the health conditions it causes. Children should be given every opportunity to succeed and not be limited by circumstances out of their control, which includes the issue of unclean air. Given that people spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, there’s never been a greater need to focus on indoor clean air quality and the effects clean air has on health.
What is “Clean Air?”
The term “clean air” refers to air that contains no harmful pollutants and is considered safe to breathe. Air contaminated with chemicals and dirt is harmful to people and causes a variety of heath conditions.
The Causes and Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air quality is a global health concern affecting everyone. Burning fossil fuels to cook food and heat buildings produces emissions including dirt, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and more. All these pollutants are hazardous to our health.
Humans themselves are a leading cause of indoor air pollution. Humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. This isn’t an issue in open areas but when you have a lot of people crowded together in a small space, such as a school, the effects of poor ventilation become problematic.
The other most common indoor air pollutants are radon gas, tobacco smoke, allergens, and mold caused by damp, poorly ventilated buildings, dust mites, plumbing leaks, and other volatile organic compounds. These compounds are emitted as gases from numerous products including paints, printers, photocopiers, cooking oils, craft materials, building materials, and chlorinated drinking water – all things found at schools.
The World Health Organization estimates that 3.8 million premature deaths per year are caused by diseases such as strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and ischemic heart disease are attributed to poor indoor air quality. There is evidence that shows indoor air pollution can cause low birth weight, tuberculosis, and several cancers.
Why is Clean Air Health Important for Schools?
Several studies show the importance of clean air health for schools. One study showed that improved air quality could improve student attendance by 3.4%. That figure might not sound like much, but it quickly adds up when applied on a global level. One study from California showed that clean air cut childcare costs by up to $80 million – costs that occur when children stay at home due to illness.
Another study, this one from 2015 and published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, showed that improving air quality at schools had a positive impact on student performance. One interesting takeaway from the study is that improving air quality in schools had a similar effect on test scores as reducing class sizes from 24 students to 15 students.
Maintaining clean and healthy air in schools is one of the simplest ways to reduce the spread of sickness in schools. Clean air helps children concentrate and perform better at school and on tests. Children are also more vulnerable to dirty air than adults. With all these benefits, and no drawbacks, there’s nothing stopping schools from investing in cleaner air.