Lennox Industries Inc., the Richardson, Texas-based provider of residential and commercial heating and air-conditioning systems, recently released a list of four tips for improving indoor-air quality (IAQ) in schools:

Reduce chemical pollutants

In schools, respiratory effects, such as asthma, allergies, and bronchitis, have been associated with excessive use of chemical pollutants, such as formaldehyde, pesticides, and cleaning compounds.

The use of high-efficiency filters, germicidal lights, and low-emission cleaning supplies can help reverse the adverse effects of three classes of air contaminants:

• Particles (pollen, dust mites, dirt, pet dander).

• Bioaerosols (bacteria, viruses, mold spores, fungi).

• Odors/chemical vapors (chlorine, cleaning supplies, paint).

Studies show reduced levels of these contaminants can result in a dramatic decrease in absenteeism attributed to chronic respiratory illnesses.

Balance humidity levels

Moderate changes in room temperature can affect a student’s ability to concentrate on mental tasks, such as multiplication, addition, and sentence comprehension, while high humidity levels can make air feel sticky and provide a breeding ground for mold, mildew, dust mites, and bacteria.

Humidity control in schools is becoming increasingly problematic, as today’s building designs require more outdoor-air ventilation, which, in turn, introduces more moisture into building air. Keeping relative humidity between 50 and 60 percent will help improve comfort and reduce the spread of allergens that could lead to absenteeism and long-term health problems, such as asthma.

While high-efficiency filters can handle some of the load, a dehumidification system is necessary to help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

Keep carbon-dioxide levels in check

Increased indoor-pollutant concentrations and lower ventilation rates have been shown to significantly reduce students’ mental performance. Additionally, a lack of adequate fresh air in classrooms can make students drowsy and uncomfortable, further reducing their ability to perform. Studies show reductions in carbon-dioxide (CO2) concentration, combined with higher ventilation rates, can reverse these unfavorable effects.

Demand-controlled-ventilation systems, which help dilute contaminated indoor air with fresher, cleaner outdoor air, are well-suited for schools. By using sensors to introduce fresh air into a building based on CO2 level, these systems help to keep IAQ levels in check.

Do away with mold and dander

Asthma accounts for 10 million missed school days per year. High-efficiency air filters and germicidal lights are ideal for decreasing children’s exposure to common asthma triggers, such as animal dander (from class pets and science projects), mold, and dust mites (found in carpeting, upholstered furniture, pillows, and stuffed toys). The frequent washing of toys, the placing of pillows in dust-proof covers, and regular vacuuming also are effective.

For more information about improving IAQ in schools, click here.