On the inside

Classrooms and indoor areas at schools can be affected by air pollution too.

Some of this can be due to outside conditions, but in addition there can be volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, carbon-containing organic chemicals present in indoor air. They come from a large number of indoor sources including building materials, furnishings, consumer products, tobacco smoking, people and their activities, and indoor chemical reactions.

Cutting down on dust, encouraging plants and checking the ventilation all help reduce internal air pollution. Sometimes, just opening the window can make all the difference.

In addition, there is also specialised equipment, such as air purifiers, filters and even pollution-absorbing paint, that can reduce it further.

Air Purifiers

Portable air purifiers can help clean the air inside (in addition to increased ventilation), but not all classrooms need them. The most efficient ones have High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which process particulate matter (like soot and dust), but manufacturers are not always clear about the standards to which their machines operate. Given these are high cost items, taking independent advice is essential.

Philips, who make air purifiers, conducted this study with the University of Manchester on the effects of having air purifiers in the classroom on pupils.

You can read more about how St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Chiswick (which used to be one of 50 most polluted schools in London) was able to improve air quality by about 90% inside a classroom by installing an Air Purifier unit.

This article gives a list, with accompanying ratings, of some of the systems that are available in the UK.

Further Information

These are the government guidelines on ventilation, thermal comfort and indoor air quality in schools (updated in 2018) – (Download here)

For further information, go to the Indoor Air Quality Working Party’s website

Here’s a report on how indoor air quality affects children and young people (Read More)

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