Asthma, Allergies and Classroom Air Quality
Here are some common issues, and questions to ask the school principal or vice principal to find out how good the air is in your child’s school.
Problem: Unsanitary conditions can attract insects and vermin, leading to the use of pesticides, which contain hazardous chemicals.
Questions to ask: Is trash removed daily? Is food kept in the classroom overnight?
Problem: Carpet, rather than hard floors, contains moisture which attracts dust mites and can promote the growth of mold. Allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander can be hard to clean out of carpet.
Questions to ask: What type of flooring is in the classrooms and libraries? How are they cleaned, and how often?
Problem: Animals in the classroom can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions.
Questions to ask: Are pets kept in the classroom? Are they kept near ventilation systems (which could circulate fur and dander)? Even if asthma and dander are less of an issue: Are cages cleaned regularly?
Problem: Some solvents, inks, glues, varnishes and paints used in arts and crafts emit toxic chemicals.
Questions to ask: Are the supplies used non-toxic? Are they stored in tightly sealed containers?
Problem: Science experiments in high school often require toxic substances.
Questions to ask: How well is the science lab ventilated? Where possible, are diluted substances used? Are the substances stored outside the class?
Problem: The dust from chalk can cause asthma symptoms, and whiteboard markers can emit volatile organic compounds.
Questions to ask: If there are blackboards in the classroom, is low-dust chalk used? In the case of whiteboards, are the markers low-VOC? Could an overhead projector (with odourless markers) or a Smart Board (computerized whiteboard) be used instead?
Problem: Locker rooms, with their potential for humidity, standing water, and damp, dirty clothing, can be breeding grounds for mold. Also, disinfectants must be used, but appropriately.
Questions to ask: Are exhaust fans used to remove moisture? Are chemical cleaners and disinfectants used when the rooms are not occupied, and sprayed on surfaces, rather than in the air?
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