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Is Your School Building Making You Sick?

Tony Leigh

Investor Relations

Red apple on top of books in a school classroom

Schools are meant to be sanctuaries of learning, places where children can grow and thrive. But for far too many students, the very buildings they spend their days in pose a hidden threat to their health: poor indoor air quality (IAQ).

From mold and mildew to dust mites and chemicals, a variety of pollutants can contaminate the air in schools, leading to a range of health problems for students and staff alike.

The Hidden Threat of Indoor Air Quality in Schools

The extent of the IAQ problem in schools is truly alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly half of all educators and students in the United States are exposed to unhealthy air in their schools.

A 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 41% of public school districts need to replace or update their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in at least half of their schools. This means that roughly 36,000 schools across the USA have inadequate ventilation, which is a key factor contributing to poor IAQ.

Unhealthy Learning: The Impact on Students

The consequences of poor IAQ can be especially severe for children. Their developing lungs are more susceptible to damage from pollutants, and they are more likely to experience respiratory problems as a result.

In addition to the physical health effects, poor IAQ can also have a negative impact on students' learning. Studies have shown that students who are exposed to unhealthy air are more likely to have difficulty concentrating, miss school days, and score lower on standardized tests.

It is clear that we cannot afford to ignore the issue of IAQ in schools any longer. We must take steps to ensure that all children have access to healthy learning environments.

Improving IAQ in schools is not just a matter of public health; it is also a matter of educational equity. Children who come from low-income families or attend schools in underserved communities are more likely to be exposed to unhealthy air. By addressing the IAQ problem, we can help to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.

Teachers Taking Action

Educators across the country are increasingly speaking out about the dangers of poor IAQ in schools. They are calling on school districts, lawmakers and parents to take action to address this issue.

In some cases, teachers have even gone on strike to demand better working conditions, including improved IAQ. For example, in 2022, teachers in Columbus, Ohio went on strike for three days, with one of their demands being that all classrooms be air-conditioned.

Teacher writing on a chalk board

The efforts of teachers and other advocates are starting to make a difference. In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the IAQ problem and some progress made in addressing it. However, there is still much more work to be done.

We must continue to push for change until all schools are safe and healthy places for everyone to learn.


Poor IAQ in schools is a serious problem that poses a threat to the health and well-being of students and staff. We must take action now to address this issue and ensure that all children have access to healthy learning environments.

By working together, we can create schools that are not only places of learning, but also places of health and wellness.

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