Lack of Fresh Air, Chemicals from Building Materials May Make Schoolchildren Sick
When ventilation rates were up to code, children missed fewer days of school in a two-year study, and illness patterns implicate our building products.
LBNL’s findings, which were published in the journal Indoor Air, also suggest that indoor pollutants may be at the heart of the elevated absences. Although other scientists have shown that respiratory infections spread more readily in classrooms lacking in fresh air, these findings suggest a more complex relationship between poor ventilation and illness. If there were a direct connection, researchers would expect to see at most a seven-day lag between inadequate ventilation rates and student absences.
But because of the relatively long 21-day lag between dips in ventilation rates and student absences, “we speculate that perhaps chronically poor ventilation exposes you to more of the chemicals and irritants inside classrooms, such as from building materials, furniture, equipment, and cleaning products,” lead researcher Mark Mendell said, “and maybe that chronic exposure makes you more susceptible to getting respiratory infections.”
California schools are losing $33 million a year in state attendance-based funding because of poor ventilation, the researchers estimate, while families are paying an extra $80 million a year in added childcare costs.
Published June 27, 2013