At the close of a fun-filled summer spent largely outdoors, it's hard to believe that we Canadians actually spend an estimated 90 percent of our time cooped up indoors. For our children, a large part of that time takes place at school
So what’s the big deal?
Indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air and, in some instances, up to one hundred times more polluted. According to Health Canada’s Indoor Air Quality: Tools for Schools Action Kit for Canadian Schools, the air in our schools can be polluted by cleaners, pesticides, printers, photocopiers, building materials, furnishings, allergens, fungi, moulds, bacteria, viruses, radon and lead. Plus, tighter, more energy-efficient buildings with reduced ventilation can lead to increased concentrations of these contaminants.
What is the impact?
At a minimum, kids can have trouble concentrating and learning. At its worst, it can wreak havoc on their health.
Respiratory illness tops the list with an average of three to five asthmatic children in a typical Canadian classroom. And the risks go beyond respiratory illnesses: Poor indoor air may impact kids’ immune, urogenital, nervous, skeletal, blood systems and the brain. Staff working in schools with mould and dampness were surveyed for a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. In addition to asthma, they reported work-related fatigue, headaches, skin irritation, eye, nasal, sinus, throat and lower respiratory symptoms and wheezing.
What can you do?
Caroline Brown, a parent educator and consultant on child health and the environment, lives in Manotick, Ont.
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