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How Good Is the Air Quality in Our Schools?

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Matthew, a third-grader in Winsted Connecticut (CT), was consistently sick with a wet cough, severe headaches and ongoing respiratory infections. He missed 53 days of school due to his illness. He also suffered a bout of pneumonia and a sinus infection so severe that he was hospitalized.

But a peculiar thing happened during the summer. Matthew wasn’t sick; in fact, it was quite the opposite. He was energetic and healthy. Fast forward to the new school year, and he missed 10 days within the first 3 weeks due to a respiratory infection, said his mom Melissa Asselin. And that is when it started to become clear: "When he was out of school, he was well. When he was in school, he became ill," Asselin told CNN.

Indoor Air Problems

Researchers estimate that at least one-third of U.S. schools have dust, mold and other airborne allergans and pathogens in amounts large enough to exacerbate respiratory issues such as asthma in students and teachers.

A growing body of research suggests indoor air affects more than health. Students work better in schools that have healthier air. Moreover, an estimated 1 in 10 kids in the United States has asthma, which causes them to miss four days of school per year, on average, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

School Air Problems a Growing Concern

Funding cutbacks that result in fewer dollars for building maintenance and upkeep are a main cause of the school air problems, suggest researchers. As buildings continue deteriorating, there aren’t enough funds to correct the issue.

New York state health department researchers found a link between building maintenance at public schools and hospitalizations due to asthma. Poor conditions of boilers, walls, windows and roofs were contributors to the health of children at the school.

Children are particularly at risk because their bodies are still developing and they breathe in more air than adults.

Teachers Also at Risk

The problem extends beyond students, also puttig teachers’ health at risk. One teacher at a Fairfield, CT, school is on permanent disability with a handful of ailments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It cost the district more than $20 million to tear down the teacher's school and rebuild.

The takeaway message s that if your child or you are consistently sick with coughing, headaches and respiratory infections, consider that the air quality of the school might be the issue. For the Ansselins, homeschooling Matthew was the solution.

For more information on this topic, visit the CDC webste Initiating Change: Creating an Asthma-Friendly School.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.