Contaminated Air Can Lead to Learning Issues
Even before the pandemic, poor air quality has been shown to negatively affect learning, with lowered test scores and increased behavioral incidents and absences in students exposed to pollutants. ( 3 )
In response to concerns about air quality, the American Rescue Plan provides two years of emergency funding for schools to improve indoor air and address other environmental health hazards. In a recent report, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health urged schools to invest in solutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases and improve student learning. ( 4 )
Their recommendations include:
- Purchase HEPA air filtration units for classrooms and common areas.
- Use only proven technologies: appropriate ventilation, HEPA filtration and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.
When it comes to air filters, size matters – particle size, that is. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERVs) dictate efficiency. ( 5 ) A higher number indicates the filter can capture smaller particles of bacteria, dust, mold, pollen and viruses.
High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are widely considered the gold standard in filtration, particularly with the coronavirus, which travels in smaller-sized particles than many other airborne contaminants. HEPA filters must be at least 99.97 percent efficient at capturing particles 0.3 µm in size and have even higher efficiency for smaller and larger particles.
Some school ventilation systems aren’t equipped to handle HEPA filters, but portable filtration options are available and recommended by ASHRAE. ( 6 ) New York City School District, Chicago Public Schools and hundreds of other districts across North America are investing in portable air purifiers before reopening this fall. ( 7 )