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INDOOR AIR QUALITY
AFFECTS HEALTH OF CHILDREN

It is common to think of air pollution as being an outdoor problem. However, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of pollution inside buildings may be 2 - 5 times, sometimes even 100 times higher than the amount of pollution outside. Since most people spend about 90% of their time inside, indoor air pollution is ranked among the top five environmental dangers to the public. Even more alarming is the fact that the indoor air pollution can be more harmful to children than adults. Because of the impact on children's health, the indoor air quality (IAQ) of homes and schools should be a major concern of parents.

Common indoor air pollutants include such things as dust, lead, radon, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. These pollutants can come from common items in homes and schools (see box). Poor ventilation in a house or school can also increase the amount of indoor air pollution. If fresh air is not being circulated from room to room, large amounts of pollution will remain in the building. Sometimes polluted outdoor air can get inside homes and schools if outdoor air intakes (ventilation systems, window fans, open doors and windows) are located close to outdoor pollution sources. In addition, warm, moist areas, such as water damaged carpets and poorly ventilated bathrooms, can cause an increase in bacteria and viruses that lead to infectious diseases.

Indoor Air Pollution Sources

Some health effects can be useful indicators of an IAQ problem, especially if they appear after a child moves into a new home or attends school in a different building or classroom. Some immediate effects of an IAQ problem include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. If you think you or your children have symptoms that may be related to your home or school environment, discuss them with your doctor or your local health department to see if they could be caused by indoor air pollution. Long term contact with indoor air pollution can cause respiratory diseases, heart diseases, and even cancer.

There are many no cost/low cost ways to improve IAQ. The most effective way is to get rid of the source of indoor air pollution or take steps to reduce the amount of pollution. Another way to improve IAQ is to make sure that fresh outside air is well circulated throughout your home or school. Schools should make sure that their ventilation system is well maintained and that filters are changed on a regular basis.

Things You Can Do To Improve Indoor Air Quality

The EPA has recently published Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit. This easy-to-use kit includes checklists, background information and a unique IAQ Problem Solving Kit. Each State PTA office has copies of the kit available for reference use or the kit. Additional kits can be ordered from the Government Printing Office (stock no. 055-000-005-036) at (202) 512-1800 for $22.00 including shipping and handlingWritten by: PTA Health and Welfare Update


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