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When talking about air pollution, the first image that usually comes to mind is that of a factory outpouring vast amounts of smog. Often individuals give little thought to the toxins of indoor air pollutants, specifically those within schools. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sites that within schools “ ‘ indoor levels of air pollutants may be two to five times higher than outdoor levels’ ” (MN Department of Health, 2017).
Poor indoor air quality is associated with numerous health effects, ranging anywhere from short-term problems such as headaches and skin irritation to life-long problems like heart disease, cancer, and other respiratory diseases (Kandi Vijayan, 2016). With these health issues, performance and achievement of students are also sited to be significantly lower for those in such environments of poor air quality (EPA, 2018). Not only is the issue a matter of public safety, but also an issue of academic performance. Seeing that indoor air quality of schools is extremely poor across the US (EPA, 2018), this memo will detail 2 major reform actions that can aid in the alleviation of harmful air quality within Minneapolis K-12 public schools. First, we should require annual testing of every Minneapolis public K-12 school to determine the severity of the issue. Second, if significant evidence of harmful air quality is present, we should require the installation of air filters to reduce contaminants.
Although there are codes that determine the standard for indoor air quality, they aren’t carefully regulated. The EPA addresses these issues by providing resources like Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) plans to assist schools by giving them practical techniques that can be implemented. While the techniques themselves are useful, they are only guidelines on how to fix the issue – not mandatory policies (Minnesota Department of Health, 2017). This poses a large problem as schools are prime locations for indoor air pollutants because of increasing school enrollment in the same amount of space, aging buildings, ventilation systems that are not up to code, and high concentrations of diesel exhaust from drop-off sites (Indoor Doctor, 2016).
In the Minneapolis area, the average age of K-12 public schools can range from 38 to 90 years old, depending on the area. Age is often a tell-tale sign of degrading facilities, which can consequently lead to mold (Raghavendran, 2017). Minneapolis schools clearly need to examine the state of public school air quality. I propose that the K-12 Minneapolis public schools should be required to have extensive, yearly air quality tests of common pollutants, allergens, and other contaminants. This will require the school district to hire a small staff to perform and analyze the tests. After recording the test results, if air is deemed poor, facilities will be required to install air filter systems. Studies have shown that the addition of air filters are often great solutions as they lead to reducing the number of contaminants present, which in turn results in important health benefits like disease prevention and symptom reduction. Even though the air filters may add a cost for the schools, the addition of the air filters leads to a healthier-operating HVAC system that requires less maintenance, which can save upwards of $1000 (Kandi Vijayan, 2016). In order to carry out the plan, we need to contact the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education, and the Minneapolis City Council.
By speaking with the aforementioned entities, we can get the word out about the proposal and acquire the help and funding needed to make the project happen. The required yearly inspections of Minneapolis schools may be time-consuming and require funds, which may be unfavorable for groups like the school board or city council. That being said, the issue of indoor air quality in these facilities is not a mere nuisance. It is a dire situation in which we must take action
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