Study Shows That Schools Need To Prioritize Indoor Air Quality

One of the few bright spots of the pandemic has been the dramatic increase of funding that has gone towards making schools safer. In order to make best use of this money, schools need to consider, not only having sufficient resources for the present, but also being prepared for the future.

Indoor air quality is a critical component of school safety that has long been neglected. 

Why is air quality so important in schools? 

The most immediate reason for improving air quality is prevention of llness transmission. Studies have shown that the vast majority of COVID outbreaks have occurred indoors, particularly in buildings with poor ventilation. And it isn’t just COVID. Building-related interventions have been shown to reduce the spread of many other airborne infectious diseases, including severe  acute respiratory syndrome(SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), tuberculosis, measles, and the flu.

Indoor air quality will become increasingly important as climate change, increased globalization, and urbanization contribute to an environment that makes pandemics even more likely.  

But the issue of air quality extends far beyond illness transmission to an array of health concerns, including a decrease in cognitive ability. 

Why is pollution dangerous to children?

Air pollution is made up of a complicated combination of suspended gases, solids, and liquid particles. There are numerous toxic ingredients in this mix, including ozone, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, all of which can cause serious health issues.  But, the component that appears most damaging are PM 2.5 particles.

PM 2.5, also known as fine particulate matter, generally comes from smoke, dust, and exhaust. PM 2.5 is 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair, so small that it can remain airborne for long periods of time, and infiltrate buildings and our bodies. Ultrafine particles are even smaller, less than .1 micrometer across. Their tiny size makes them almost impossible to monitor.

PM 2.5 particles are so small that they may even be able to go straight from the nose to the brain, bypassing the blood-brain barrier. And they don’t travel alone. On the surface of these particles are a whole range of contaminants including chemical compounds and metals.

Once inside the body, PM can affect the body in a number of devastating ways. Exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to heart, lung, and brain issues and even premature death.  

Children are especially vulnerable to the ill effects of air pollution. For instance, nearly one in thirteen children in the US has asthma, which is triggered by allergens commonly  found in schools, and is the leading cause of school  absenteeism due to chronic illness.

Outdoor pollution can penetrate into the schools, impacting neurodevelopment and academic performance and even leading to childhood cancer.

What is the current state of air quality in schools?

Most school heating, ventilation, and air conditioning  (HVAC) systems are designed for comfort, focusing on controlling temperature and common pollutants. But few schools are equipped to deal with more complicated issues of illness transmission and pollution. This is especially significant because indoor air is generally 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. 

Currently, most schools do not even meet the minimum standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) of approximately five liters of air exchanged per second  per person (l/s/p). For example, in a study of 100 US classrooms, 87 had ventilation rates below  recommended minimum standards.

How can we improve indoor air quality in schools?

A recent study by the Lancet Covid-19 Task Force on Safe Work, Safe School, And Safe Travel recommends that the additional funds be used to make the following infrastructure changes in schools.

Commission buildings and examine existing systems. 

Commissioning is the process of checking HVAC performance to ensure that systems are operating as designed. This means that schools should receive regular inspections by trained professionals to identify and resolve building issues. Part of this regular maintenance should be the installation of sensors to monitor CO2 concentrations  in real-time to ensure that ventilation systems are working properly.

Ventilate with clean outdoor air. 

Recirculating unfiltered air is unhealthy, especially during a pandemic. Opening windows and doors can dilute the concentrations of airborne viruses, lowering the rate of transmission.. 

Use evidence-based air cleaning treatments

Recycled air should always be filtered at the highest possible efficiency for the system’s design. Airflow patterns should be regularly reviewed to ensure that sufficient airflow is maintained across the filter.  Schools should also strive for a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of MERV13 filtration or higher. 

Use portable air cleaners with  high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration.  

Portable air purifiers that use HEPA filters are another option for improving ventilation requirements. Portable air cleaners can significantly increase the clean air supply in a  classroom, and are often a cost-effective measure for improving indoor air. 

Consider other evidence-based air cleaning  approaches.  

If improved ventilation and air cleaning through filtration is not possible, other science based technologies such as in-duct germicidal UV lights or upper-room germicidal UV can be considered.

Looking towards the future

The pandemic has revealed many societal issues that have long been pushed to the side. School infrastructure has been chronically underfunded. The current funding provides a unique and long overdue opportunity to ensure that no child will suffer the devastating health effects or cognitive issues caused by low quality air. 

How To Keep Air Pollution From Damaging Your Oral Health
You brush your teeth after every meal, floss once a...
An Air Purifier Is Essential For Wildfire Season Preparation
Wildfire season is here and with it comes worries about...
What Are The Biggest Health Risks From Air Pollution?
For decades, scientists have been warning us about the serious...
aeris air purifier in office setting
Affirm + aeris by iRobot

As low as 0% APR Financing with Affirm

As an example, a $1,000 purchase might cost $333.34/mo over 3 months at 0% APR.
Quick and easy
Enter a few pieces of information for a real-time decision
No hidden fees
Know up front exactly what you'll owe, with no hidden costs and no surprises.
Just select Affirm at checkout

Your rate will be 0% APR or 10–30% APR based on credit, and is subject to an eligibility check. For example, a $1000 purchase might cost $90.36/mo over 12 months at 15% APR.  Payment options through Affirm are provided by these lending partners: Options depend on your purchase amount, and a down payment may be required.


How Tax is calculated

The amount of tax charged on your order depends on many factors including the following:


  • The identity of the seller
  • The type of item or service purchased
  • The time and location of fulfillment


The shipment or delivery address of your order
These factors can change between the time you place an order and when your shipment is complete. As a result, the tax calculated on your order may change. We display an “Estimated Tax” to be collected at Check Out when confirming an order. The amounts displayed as estimated tax may then be updated later when your order is finalized and completed.


The tax rate applied to your order will be the combined state and local rates of the address where your order is delivered to or fulfilled from. For example, if you live in a state that does not impose a sales tax, you may still see tax calculated on your order if shipped to another state. Moreover, the tax rates applied to your order may also be different for a variety of reasons, such as a shipment to a residential home versus a business address. Also, the total selling price of an item will generally include item-level shipping and handling charges, item level discounts, and gift wrapping charges. If applied at an order level, these charges, may be allocated to the individual items in an order.


If you are ordering from aeris and shipping to a country outside of the US, you may be charged the applicable country tax rate.

Contact customer support: