5 Ways to Ensure Students Breathe Clean Air
School supply checklists, clothes shopping, parent-teacher meetings, meal prep, getting teenagers out of bed before 11 a.m. Your back-to-school to-do list is packed enough without adding health-related stressors to the mix. This is exactly why it’s important to know that when your kids go back to the classroom, they’re going to breathe clean air.
As a 2022 study from the Journal of Building Engineering puts it, “Pupils are a different segment of the population from adults in many ways, and they are more exposed to the poor indoor environment: They breathe in more air per unit weight [so] their vulnerability is higher than adults, and poor conditions may affect proper development.”
Indoor air quality matters, especially for young learners, and these five pro tips can help ensure that your budding scholars breathe clean air – which helps you breathe easy when they’re at school.
Crack Those Windows
The truth is, most schools don’t ventilate enough. One of the quickest, easiest ways to address that? Crack a window.
Indoor air is typically 3-4 times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the American Lung Association, which is why the ALA suggests opening doors and windows to draw in fresher outdoor air and cut back on indoor pollutants. Opening windows and doors on opposing sides of the classroom to create a cross draft is particularly effective, as is using a CO2 monitor (CO2 levels reading above 800 parts per million mean that the classroom needs more outdoor air). Cracking windows is, of course, the baseline for in-school air quality – it’s a simple and totally accessible method, but schools will need to pair it with other air quality practices for maximum impact.
Install In-School Air Purifiers
Nowadays, we’re dealing with heaps of environmental concerns that negatively impact air quality. Whether we’re talking harmful chemicals or wildfire smoke, air purifiers and portable air cleaning devices (PACs) are absolutely essential tools for the drive to breathe clean air in classrooms. These filtration devices capture particulates, chemicals and even viruses from indoor environments before releasing clean air back into the space.
Our Airmega 250 and 400 models capture and remove 99.98 percent of SARS-CoV-2 viruses floating in the air. Purifiers like these also deodorize the air, making for more comfortable spaces for learning, playing, exploring and everything else that goes down in class.
Keep HVAC On-Point
As the US Government Accountability Office reports, about 41 percent of American school districts require HVAC system updates, or full-on replacements. The EPA suggests HVAC air filters with dust-spot ratings between 35 and 80 percent or Minimum Efficiency Rating Values (MERV) between 8 and 13. And while school admin can take advantage of federal stimulus funding to update their HVAC systems, some simpler practices help maximize their effectiveness in the moment. For instance, schools should maintain three feet of clearance around vents, regularly clean diffusers, exhausts and returns grills, use high-efficiency MERV-rated filters, and change those filters regularly.
Purifiers should be included in that regular HVAC maintenance, and Coway’s Heart Service makes that part easy. With this monthly air purifier lease program, technicians are on standby for schools to help replace filters and install, replace and troubleshoot PACs.
Get Clean, Go Green
Take it from the EPA, the types of harsh chemicals found in common cleaning products can lead to everything from runny noses and sore thoughts to nausea and asthma. That’s why the EPA recommends that schools turn to more environmentally friendly, natural cleaning products to make for less harmful environments and improve air quality. For friendlier alternatives, school staff should turn to cleaners with neutral pH levels, no carcinogens and no Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs). Alongside cutting back on chemicals, reducing the amount of cloth (like curtains) and other dust-collecting items in the classroom can also help improve overall air quality.
Educate Our Educators
So many of us have learned that a great teacher can positively impact our lives for the long haul, and so much of what makes those teachers great is continued education. Now more than ever, up-to-date education on the best air quality practices is crucial for educators and school staff, and the resources are plentiful – the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit is a fantastic (and free) place to start.
Air quality affects young learners’ physical health as much as it does their mental health. Like the Building Engineering study says, “a healthy learning environment can reduce the absence rate, improve test scores, and enhance [pupil] learning productivity.” That’s a place we can get to, together. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or administrator, get in touch with Coway to make sure your school’s air quality makes the honor roll this year.
Dan is a Dallas-based freelance writer and consultant specializing in tech, media analysis and lifestyle content. In his decade-plus experience, he's been fortunate enough to work alongside partners including Samsung, BRIO, ASUS, Verizon, Sony and many more.
Education Writers Association - How Indoor Air Quality in Schools Affects Student Learning and Health
American Lung Association - 5 Ways to Protect the Air Quality in Schools
California Department of Public Health - Tips for Improving Indoor Air Quality at School
United States Government Accountability Office - Report to Congressional Addresses, K-12 Education: School Districts Frequently Identified Multiple Building Systems Needing Updates or Replacement
Washington State Department of Health - Healthy Air Quality in Schools
United States Environmental Protection Agency - Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Systems, Part of Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools
United States Environmental Protection Agency - SC3: Protecting Students and Staff with Green Cleaning
United States Environmental Protection Agency - Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit