Do Indoor Pollutants and Thermal Conditions in Schools Influence Student Performance

To assess whether school environments can adversely affect academic performance, we review scientific evidence relating indoor pollutants and thermal conditions, in schools or other indoor environments, to human performance or attendance. We critically review evidence for direct associations between these aspects of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and performance or attendance. Secondarily, we summarize, without critique, evidence on indirect connections potentially linking IEQ to performance or attendance. Regarding direct associations, little strongly designed research was available. Persuasive evidence links higher indoor concentrations of nitrogen dioxide to reduced school attendance, and suggestive evidence links low ventilation rates to reduced performance.

Regarding indirect associations, many studies link indoor dampness and microbiologic pollutants (primarily in homes) to asthma exacerbations and respiratory infections, which in turn have been related to reduced performance and attendance. Also, much evidence links poor IEQ (e.g., low ventilation rate, excess moisture, or formaldehyde) with adverse health effects in children and adults and documents dampness problems and inadequate ventilation as common in schools. Overall, evidence suggests that poor IEQ in schools is common and adversely influences the performance and attendance of students, primarily through health effects from indoor pollutants. Evidence is available to justify (1) immediate actions to assess and improve IEQ in schools and (2) focused research to guide IEQ improvements in schools.

From: Do Indoor Pollutants and Thermal Conditions in Schools Influence Student Performance
By: Mark J. Mendell1 and Garvin A. Heath
Photo: iStock

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