Schools have four times as many people per unit area than the typical office building. Schools also support a variety of activities (from art to gym classes) and often have tight budgets and deferred maintenance. These factors make it difficult for schools to ensure good indoor air quality.
All states have schools with unsatisfactory environmental conditions. In a June 1996 General Accounting Office report to Congress on School Facilities, about 69 percent of schools nationwide reported at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. Of these, 19 percent are attributed to unsatisfactory indoor air quality, 19 percent to unsatisfactory heating and 27 percent to unsatisfactory ventilation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is especially concerned with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in schools because children spend a majority of their day there. EPA assists schools across the region in addressing indoor air quality problems using low-or no-cost techniques and existing school resources. The IAQ Tools for Schools program, for example, promotes the use of the Tools for Schools Action Kit. This kit serves as a model IAQ management plan for schools to use for increasing awareness and developing communication strategies. It is designed to help prevent indoor air quality problems from occurring and to guide schools through the quick and efficient resolution of problems if and when they do occur.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced from the incomplete burning of virtually any combustible product. It may accumulate indoors as a result of tobacco smoking, poorly ventilated appliances and attached garages.
Carbon monoxide enters the blood from the lungs and combines with hemoglobin, blocking the blood's ability to carry oxygen to body cells. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure may mimic influenza and include fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, mental confusion and rapid heart rate. Depending on the level of exposure, carbon monoxide can be immediately fatal. Long-term, low-level exposure to carbon monoxide by pregnant women have the potential to injure the developing fetus.
Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of allergic complications such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Common symptoms of smoke irritation are burning or watery eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, hoarseness and shortness of breath presenting as a wheeze. It is best not to smoke around children.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon. However, it may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air that contains radon, lung cancer can develop. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.
Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Cleaning supplies, cosmetics, personal care products, house plants and medications are all things around your home that can effect the health of your child. Especially with children under 6 years, these items should be kept out of reach and locked up to prevent accidental ingestion and exposure.
If you believe your child has tasted or eaten any of these household products, call your local poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.