Top 5 reasons to monitor Indoor Air Quality at Schools

Introduction to Indoor Air Quality Monitoring

This article is all about importance of Indoor Air Quality Monitoring at Schools. Let’s begin.

Do you know that, we are taking around 20,000 breaths each day and spend about 90% of our time in indoors. Breathing good quality air becomes the fundamental need for any individual.

After home, our children are spending most of their time in schools only. The School Administration have the responsibility of establishing a favorable learning environment by protecting the health and supporting the productivity for both students, teachers and staff members. Schools are meant to be places that encourage learning and growth, without good health, learning can be impaired. It is therefore important that schools should have good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) environment.

 

What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor air quality is defined by the depiction of concentrations of pollutants and thermal conditions that may positively or negatively affect the health, comfort and performance of building’s occupants. In simple terms, IAQ can be defined as quality of air inside and around the buildings such as schools, colleges and education lab environments.

Indoor Air Quality has been long-overlooked issue in comparison to outdoor air pollution. The concentration of air pollutants can be between 2 to 10 times higher in indoors than outdoor environment. These pollutants not only damage the respiratory and circulatory systems, but it is also found to have negative cognitive effects on individuals.

Below are Top 5 vital reasons why monitoring indoor air quality becomes crucial for maintaining healthy environment in schools.

Reason 1: Indoor Air Pollution.

Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can impact their health, same way indoor air pollution can also have significant and harmful health effects. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and its SAB (Science Advisory Board) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. Since Children, Teachers and Support staff spend most of their time at school, especially inside the classroom, breathing quality air is critical for their health.

Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) contributes to a favorable environment for students, performance of teachers and staff and a sense of comfort, health and well-being.

One of the main sources of indoor pollution chemical component is called as VOCs (Volatile organic compounds) such as benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene. Basically, these are the gases that are emitted into the air from artificial products or processes which are listed below.

  1. Aerosol sprays.
  2. Cleansers and disinfectants.
  3. Moth repellents and air fresheners.
  4. Stored fuels and automotive products.
  5. Hobby supplies.
  6. Paints, paint strippers and other solvents.
  7. Wood preservatives.

These chemical gases are invisible and lower in odor which cannot be sensed by humans. Therefore, we need high sensing devices to detect the level of VOC to protect us.

Hence, TVOC (Total volatile organic compounds) sensors are electronic sensors that can be used to measure the total concentration of multiple VOCs present simultaneously in the air. Also, measuring TVOC concentrations using sensors are less expensive than measuring the concentrations of many individual VOCs in order to maintain healthy environment for the school children and working staff.

Reason 2: Indoor air pollutants

Children constitute a sensitive human group with higher risk than adult’s immune level. Children between the age of 3 to 13 are particularly vulnerable to pollutants due to their young airways. Moreover, children have greater susceptibility to some environmental pollutants than adults, because they breathe higher volumes of oxygen relative to their body weights as their tissues and organs are actively growing.

Records show that over the past decades, exposure to indoor air pollutants has increased due to variety of factors. These include:

  1. The construction of more tightly sealed buildings
  2. Reduced ventilation rates to save energy.
  3. The use of synthetic building materials and furnishings.
  4. The use of personal care products, pesticides and housekeeping supplies.
  5. Increased use of vehicles (School buses) and power equipment.

Certain group of people may be particularly vulnerable to exposures of certain pollutants or pollutant mixtures. For example:

  1. People with heart disease may be more adversely affected by exposure to carbon monoxide than healthy individuals. Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless gas, which is not easily detectable by human senses and interferes with oxygen delivery throughout the body. Carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, and nausea. Toxic amounts can lead to death.
  2. People exposed to significant levels of nitrogen dioxide are at higher risk for respiratory infections. Nitrogen dioxide, which is also colourless and odourless gas, causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and an increased risk for respiratory infections.
  3. Some pollutants can aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The American Lung Association estimates that 6.3 million school-aged kids misses around 10 million school days with various types of asthmas conditions. In fact, it is said that asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates approximately 14 million school days per year are lost because of asthma exacerbated by poor IAQ in schools.

Therefore, it becomes necessary to keep track on indoor pollutants and these dangers gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide using CO and NO2 sensor monitoring systems.

 

Reason 3: Insufficient ventilation in schools.

The term ventilation refers to the supply of outdoor air in to a building. Classroom ventilation rates often do not meet building standards and fall far short of the minimum ventilation rates specified in standards, although it is important to improve indoor air quality.  Specially during the extreme climate conditions such as Winter and Rainy seasons, most of the school ventilations are closed to protect from the outdoor condition.

Classroom ventilation is already recognized as an important determinant of indoor air quality by NAFA (North America Fastpitch Association). Poor ventilation increases the indoor levels of CO2, indoor air pollutant concentrations, temperature and relative humidity.

High levels of carbon dioxide indicates lack of fresh air available and that negatively affects the health, attendance rate and learning ability of students. Elevated CO2 levels leads to chronic illnesses, reduced cognitive abilities and sleepiness.

Monitoring the surrounding air in an easy and efficient manner with CO2 sensors which is mandatory is required in schools for better school operations.

 

Reason 4: High density of student population.

In recent times, our schools are challenged to serve growing student population and rising community expectations with aging buildings and constrained operating budgets. Therefore, large number of students are put together in single classrooms increasing the class strength.

Occupants (students) are close together, typical where school having approximately four times as many occupants as office buildings for the same amount of floor space. Indoor Air Quality problems in schools may be even more serious in these cases because of higher occupant density and insufficient outside air supply. This increases the CO2 concentration, along with temperature and humidity in the room which adversely effects children health.

The electronic based Humidity and temperature sensors can be a solution to this problem. These sensors are capable of measuring the condition and reports through other connected systems such as Internet of Things (IoT). The ratio of moisture in the air to the highest amount of moisture at a particular air temperature is called relative humidity. Relative humidity becomes an important factor when looking for comfortable living environment.

 

Reason 5: Infrequently and not thoroughly cleaned indoor surfaces.

Activity level of children is very high and they are being contributors of large garbage accumulation in schools. It becomes very difficult to maintain proper hygiene in schools. Maintaining cleanliness in schools become a big challenge because of the following reasons:

  1. Classrooms are busy places with so much activity, that it can be hard to stay on top of keeping them clean.
  2. Groups of children who play and learn together often pass around bacteria and viruses that can lead to illness.
  3. Several kids sit at the same desk throughout the day increasing chance for germs to spread.
  4. Educating children about germs, maintaining hygiene, making them understand the basic facts behind germs, viruses and other environmental pathogens is difficult.
  5. Maintaining cleanliness in huge school campus may be challenging.

Because of these cleanliness issues, viable and nonviable particulates can be brought in on children’s clothing and also through open doors and windows. Furthermore, because of higher activity level of most young children, shedding of skin cells (dead cells) and other particulates (often known as floating dust) increases. When children sneeze or cough, bacteria (living cells) spread out to air (floating germs) which infects other children. Hence, the bio-burden becomes even greater making school air some of the dirtiest air in any environment.

The ‘floating dust’ or the ‘floating germs’ are usually categorized as Particulate Matter (PM). This floating dust is most often categorized based on their aerodynamic diameter. The aerodynamic diameter of a dust particle is the diameter of a sphere-shaped particle. Particulate matter such as PM10, PM2.5, PM1 and PM0.1 is defined as the fraction of particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than respectively 10, 2.5, 1 and 0.1 µm.

The PM1.0 / PM2.5 sensors can be used for detecting particle matter with a diameter between 2.5 and 10 µm, respectively.

Below table gives the limit for all the parameters. If the parameters cross the specified limit, then necessary actions need to be carried out.

 

Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Conditions


How to act when the air quality parameters exceed the limit?

  1. Open the doors and windows of the building for sufficient outdoor air to enter.
  2. If you ever find any child or staff suffocating, immediately call school nurse or your local emergency number and follow lifesaving steps:
  3. Get the child who is suffocating out from the place immediately to some outdoors and allow the child to breathe fresh air.
  4. Relocate all Children, Teachers and Staff from the room or building.
  5. Remove the offending object and all plastic materials such as plastic bags, trash, and dry-cleaning bags as soon as possible from the surroundings.

To avoid such incidences happening at school and to maintain healthy (both physical and mental) environment at schools, school management should think of deploying Air Quality sensor devices to track and monitor the air quality you are breathing and take necessary action to improve air quality.

 

Role of IoT Devices in Air Quality Monitoring

Internet of Things (IoT) in simple terms is defined as network of “things” connected to internet. Basically, IoT is a system of interrelated, interconnected sensors and devices able to collect data , store and transfer the sensor data over wireless networks without human intervention.

These modern devices can be customized to automatically trigger alerts when indoor air quality parameters exceed the conditions.  These IoT based air quality devices has huge potential to mitigate the challenges associated with designing efficient and reliable real-time monitoring systems.

 

How Fogwing Eco helps to monitor IAQ?

Fogwing Eco App is the advanced air quality monitoring solution with inbuilt sensors, data acquisition and transmission of data through wireless communication channels such as WIFI and Cellular Network. The software application provided with Fogwing Eco is loaded with features like On-Demand Report Generation, setting air quality rules and alerts, monitoring health condition etc. It is also inbuilt with periodic metrics giving options to generate reports for weekly and monthly period to file compliances reports.

Fogwing kit (IoT based device) monitors various particles from air such as CO2, temperature, humidity, airborne chemicals (TVOC, CH2O), dust pollutions (PM1.0, PM2.5) and more.

Fogwing Eco solution allows anyone to manage and optimize the air quality of the school environment by analyzing and presenting real time air quality data. Using Inbuild dashboards, visualizations, and threshold analyses, it helps you understand the current situation as well as long-term trends so that you can make better and informed decisions for the health and productivity of students and staff present in the school premises.

In recognition of tight school budgets, Fogwing Eco kit and software application is designed to present practical and often low-cost solution that you can adopt to identify and address existing or potential air quality problems. Fogwing Eco is simple and easy to learn solution, therefore you can accomplish the air quality monitoring using current school staff to perform a limited and well-defined set of basic operations and activities.

 

Conclusion

As the above topics enlighten, indoor air quality monitoring is the crucial one for school administration to continue the mission of education the future generation.  The following are the key take away of this reading.

  1. Children spend most of their time in school. Hence, having good IAQ takes utmost priority.
  2. With growing threat of airborne infections, air quality monitoring is important.
  3. Various chemicals, gases, pollutants etc constitute to bad air quality. Therefore, keeping track of them is vital.
  4. Since some of these pollutants are colourless, odourless and is difficult for human senses to sense, powerful sensors are required to measure these parameters.
  5. Fogwing Eco is simple, low cost, easy to use kit with IoT enabled sensors. It is to collect, analyze and process the data received from sensors in order to obtain real-time monitoring of the air quality, as well as determine the security and consistency of the collected data.
  6. Breathe healthy! live healthy!
Categories : Environmental

If you are not sure where to start your IoT Journey?

Feel free to call us and get guidance.