Though currently the schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a good time to review the air quality in our children’s schools and what can be done to improve it.
The young spend a large amount of time in school as they grow up. Air pollution inside is a problem that is continuing to grow. Though we all have a basic understanding that bad air can contribute to issues such as allergies and asthma, it is important to remember that bad air quality can also impact mood, energy levels, and productivity.
A recently commissioned report by the London Mayor noted that children are far more vulnerable to pollution in the air than adults. This is due to their airways being smaller, but children also breathe more air per kilo of their body weight. The continued exposure of a child’s lungs to pollution can potentially lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
The report’s results illustrated that the inside temperature and poor ventilation can also affect their performance in school. Worryingly, there is a link between the beginning of the school year and admissions to hospitals for young asthma sufferers. This indicates that children with asthma may find their ailment triggered by poor air quality in schools.
Among the report’s recommendations were:
– Move entrances and playing areas away from a busy road.
– Reduce the emissions from kitchens, boilers and other areas.
– Add a green infrastructure, such as a barrier bush, along busy roads and in play areas.
– Encourage students to cycle and walk to school along less polluted routes.
In addition to this, using an air purification system to clean the air is a fantastic way to improve its quality. This is particularly the case for schools in inner-city areas which have the added challenge of vehicle exhaust pollution due to their location.
Building age is an additional issue; those that have airtight and modern construction generally record a lower amount of pollution than buildings from the Victorian era. Unfortunately, a large number of these are home to schools.
How coronavirus may change things
One of the biggest challenges has been that of Coronavirus. Though it has been suggested in reports that air conditioning is responsible for the spread of this disease, so far there has been no concrete evidence to back these reports up.
The main reason why it is unlikely is that COVID-19 is mainly transmitted via droplets whenever someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and will fall onto floors and surfaces.
A person can only be infected if they are within 2 metres of someone who has it or by touching a surface that has been contaminated before touching their nose, mouth or eyes without washing their hands.
It is too early to say how air conditioning design may change following the virus, but any subsequent changes would be made in conjunction with official guidance from the UK Health Authorities.
Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, so they deserve the chance to be able to study in optimum conditions to achieve their potential. Therefore, it’s important that key decision-makers review school air quality immediately.