healthy house institute

4 Free HHI Books:

Creating a Healthy Household, The Healthy House Answer Book, Healthy Home Building, The Healthy House 4th Edition
Your email will only be used as described in our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter



Proud Supporter of:




What you Need to Know About IAQ in Schools

Children spend a great deal of time indoors, particularly in schools. While a school building should be an ideal place for children to develop, thrive and learn, recent studies have found that poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is affecting children's health and their ability to learn.


article continues below ↓

We do not strictly control Google ad content. If you believe any Google ad is inappropriate, please email us directly here.

According to the U.S. Department of Education nearly 73 million people in the U.S., including 68.5 million children (6 million of which have asthma), spend a significant amount of time each day in more than 120,000 public and private schools. Many of the school buildings are in poor condition, which accounts for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) estimate that 50 percent of U.S. schools have IAQ problems.

Because children spend so much time at school, maintaining good IAQ in these environments is critical for minimizing their exposure to potentially dangerous indoor air pollutants. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to low-level chemicals may affect children. In a 2006 review study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine systematically examined publicly available data on chemicals with the goal of identifying the industrial chemicals that are neurotoxins and likely to damage developing brains. The researchers found that 201 commonly used industrial chemicals may affect millions of children worldwide. Visit for more information.

Researchers also have clear evidence that the quality of indoor air is a factor in causing asthma. A recent study, "Association of Domestic Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds with Asthma in Young Children," conducted by Rumchev K, Spickett J, Bulsara M et al., found that children exposed to high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were four times more likely to develop asthma than adults. Other studies have also found an association between VOCs and asthma in children. And, asthma cases are on the rise. Over a 14 year period the proportion of children under the age of five with asthma increased by 160 percent. This is a cause for concern as asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism and hospitalizations in children under the age of 15. An estimated 14 million lost school days and $16 billion in annual health care expenditures for both children and adults can be attributed to asthma.

Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS) measured VOC levels in more than 200 U.S. schools and found 345 different VOCs in the indoor air. Table 1 lists the 15 most common VOCs found in these schools. Other frequently found VOCs of concern in schools include perchloroethylene and methylene chloride, potential carcinogens related to spot cleaners, degreasers and art supplies.


Table 1. Common VOCs found in schools   
Toluene Cleaners, construction materials Hexanal Cleaners, adhesives, deodorizers
Xylenes Cleaners, construction materials 2-Butoxyethanol Wood cabinetry, cleaners, paints
Siloxanes Waxes, polishes, deodorants TXIB Cleaners, paints
Formaldehyde Furniture, ceiling tile, wood shelving, cabinetry Ethanol Disinfectants
Hexane Markers, cleaners Acetaldehyde Plastics, paints
Acetone Markers, art supplies Longifolene Cleaners, wood products, flooring
1,4 Dichlorobenzene Cleaners, deodorizers Naphthalene Adhesives, art supplies


Indoor air quality in schools affects more than children's health. Poor indoor air quality also affects chidren's ability to learn. As a part of its review and assessment of the health and productivity benefits of green schools, the National Research Council found "a robust body of evidence indicating that the health of children and adults can be affected by air quality in a school," and "a growing body of evidence [suggesting] that teacher productivity and student learning, as measured by absenteeism, may be affected by indoor air quality as well."

The National Research Council also noted that available research suggests an association between the condition of a school building and student achievement. For example, a study conducted by the University of Tulsa Indoor Air Program examined the ventilation rates in 55 fifth grade elementary school classrooms and student performance based on standardized math and reading tests. The results showed that increased ventilation rates had a significant impact on math and reading test scores. There was a 14.7 percent increase in math scores and a 13.7 percent increase in reading scores with improved ventilation.

In an effort to limit toxins released in the indoor environment, the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) introduced a cleaning standard for low-emitting cleaning chemicals and processes that takes the sensitive nature of school populations and the unique building characteristics and maintenance conditions found in schools into consideration. This standard presents the most rigorous product emissions criteria to date for cleaning chemicals based on established health criteria. Please visit to view this standard.

Additionally, through the GREENGUARD Children & Schools(SM) program, GEI certifies a large range of low-emitting products and materials used in sensitive environments such as daycare and school facilities. Products certified under GREENGUARD Children & Schools are tested for more than 2,000 chemicals including phthalates. For a complete list of GREENGUARD Children & Schools certified products visit



HHI Error Correction Policy

HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

What you Need to Know About IAQ in Schools:  Created on August 7th, 2008.  Last Modified on November 2nd, 2011


We do not strictly control Google ad content. If you believe any Google ad is inappropriate, please email us directly here.

About GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI)

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is an industry-independent, non-profit organization that oversees the GREENGUARD Certification Program.  As an ANSI Authorized Standards Developer, GEI establishes acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, environments, and buildings. GEI’s mission is to improve public health and quality of life through programs that improve indoor air. A GEI Advisory Board consisting of independent volunteers - who are experts in the areas of indoor air quality, public and environmental health, building design and construction, and public policy - provides guidance and leadership to GEI.



Information provided by The Healthy House Institute is designed to support, not to replace the relationship between patient/physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Education Partners



Popular Topics: Air Cleaners & Air Purifiers | Allergies & Asthma | Energy Efficiency & Energy Savings | Healthy Homes | Green Building
Green Cleaning | Green Homes | Green Living | Green Remodeling | Indoor Air Quality | Water Filters | Water Quality

© 2006-2018 The Healthy House Institute, LLC.


About The Healthy House Institute | Contact HHI | HHI News & Media | Linking Resources | Advertising Info | Privacy Policy | Legal Disclaimer


HHI Info