CO2 In the Classroom

If you are a parent, do you think about the air quality in your child’s classroom?

Indoor Air Quality in the Classroom

You should. Every classroom requires a constant flow of fresh, conditioned air to make it comfortable for students.

In the past, this was not a problem. Pre-WWII school buildings “leaked” fresh air into the building around windows and through open doors. Although “leaky” buildings insure fresh air, they are also more expensive to heat and cool. A common solution was to incorporate permanently sealed windows in new building designs.

While this solution saved energy, it had the unexpected consequence of sealing in mold, bacteria, and potentially harmful gases like radon and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Studies showed that high concentrations of these contaminants lead to more colds, flu and increased respiratory problems for allergy or asthma sufferers. In turn, these health problems lead to increased absenteeism among both staff and students.

In addition to indoor pollutants, studies also found that carbon dioxide levels rose in sealed classrooms throughout the day. While humans can learn to adapt to high levels of CO2 over long periods (for example, in a submarine) over short periods, even moderate increases in CO2 will result in children who are tired, have headaches or cannot concentrate.

Today, the term “sick building syndrome” is used to describe these sealed buildings.

To combat “sick building syndrome” new HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems are designed to feed fresh air into each classroom. In some proactive school districts, older school buildings are being retrofitted to increase the flow of fresh air. However, in thousands of school buildings across the country, students are forced to spend their day sitting in unhealthy classrooms.

Parents should take the time to learn if their child’s school meets modern indoor air quality standards. Educators who are concerned about the air in their classroom should explore the EPA Indoor Air Quality for Schools Action Kit. Several have even told us that our low-cost TIM10 Indoor Air Quality Meter was the tool they needed to get school boards to take IAQ in the classroom seriously. For example, in Oklahoma, our TIM10 meters are handed out to instructors as part of their Green Schools Initiative. Several parents have purchased our CO2 Probe, an easy to use USB device we have specifically designed for schools and student science fair projects.

Poor indoor air quality affects each of us. But we can walk out of a room. Children don’t have a choice.

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