Dubai, UAE: Crystal Pereira, seven, a student in Dubai, often falls ill with chest congestion and chronic cough. Her parents believe that she usually picks up the ailments from other students in her class. But is there a deeper problem than just kids passing on infections?
Studies by experts point out that one of the main contributing factors towards a student’s scholastic performance is superior indoor environmental quality (IEQ), as well as indoor air quality (IAQ). With students, teachers and support staff studying and working in a school building for an average of 6-10 hours daily, risks of respiratory disorders are high, if no attention is paid to the built environment.
IAQ in schools relies heavily on the maintenance of HVAC systems, according to a study carried out by Nazanin Behzadi. The study conducted across four schools in the UAE, also reveals that children are most vulnerable to health issues when exposed to poor IEQ conditions in schools. Her report shows that since children’s bodies are still in the development stage, they tend to breathe more rapidly than adults, and since they are closer to the ground level because of their height, the inhalation of pollutants, including tiny particles, is more aggressive. The report further says, “They spend most of their time in a school building. Thus, appropriate IAQ for school environment is an exceptionally important matter.”
Experts also suggest that a student’s performance is closely related to IEQ. According to a white paper authored by B Surendar, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher, CPI Industry, when a classroom has poor IEQ, it could comprise more than 500 chemicals and microbes and unseen and odourless gases among other dangerous pollutants. The white paper suggests that these cause chronic respiratory disorders, which result in absenteeism, which in turn lead to the child lagging behind in studies, gravely affecting student performance. However, the scenario can change if schools pay more attention to the built environment of classrooms. Although regulatory bodies do monitor building aesthetics, both IAQ and IEQ, too, need to be regulated.
The white paper recommends school administrators to “adopt adequate IEQ principles and to embrace strategies and solutions.”
Behzadi’s study, on its part, suggests that IEQ is often a forgotten subject, and that prolonged exposure to unhealthy conditions can lead to long-term health disorders among children. Hence, school authorities need to ensure that HVAC systems are adequately maintained on a regular basis.