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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Certain group of people may be particularly vulnerable to exposures of certain pollutants or pollutant mixtures. For example:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
How to act when the air quality parameters exceed the limit?
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.
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.
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.
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.