There have been countless studies done on how certain issues like lack of sleep, and even problems at home, can affect children and their performance in school. More recently, individual states and cities have been taking this a step further and have examined the link between poor indoor air quality and increased instances of hospitalization due to asthma.
Studies like this are important for two reasons. First, they highlight how building maintenance and cleaning procedures (or lack thereof) can impact students vis-à-vis indoor air quality issues (IAQ). Secondly, they illustrate the link between increased instances of asthma and how this can affect students' academic performance.
In this New York State Department of Health study, even school districts with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) programs in place found that there were still environmental allergy triggers and conditions present.
As some of the largest respiratory irritants, dust or dust reservoirs were reported in 99% of schools. Additionally, 84% reported mold or moisture issues, and nearly half (42%) reported possible exposure to diesel fumes and exhaust (usually from idling school buses).
A recent CNN article highlights that these conditions are often exacerbated by a poor economy. With today's slimmer budgets, renovation, upkeep, and the construction of new buildings are often an afterthought. Unfortunately, a possible consequence of this can be a slow but steady increase in the rates of allergies and asthma – both of which can negatively impact a child's educational experience.
These problems are not just confined to students. Surveys of some of the nation's largest school systems have shown as many as 30% of teachers reporting health issues or sickness related to the school environment.
With 7 million children currently diagnosed with asthma1 and approximately 8.5 million who have suffered from respiratory allergies in the last year, the impact of poor IAQ in our schools is no small matter.
Aside from dealing with these issues on an individual level, either with OTC antihistamines or non-pharmaceutical allergy relief methods, there are some excellent CDC resources as well as helpful tips and guides that can be useful in highlighting this situation and helping improve conditions in your local schools.1CDC Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children – December 2011