Poor Ventilation in Schools

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This is just a quick listing of research on how poorly ventilated most school buildings are. Ventilation is more important than ever in the COVID era, but we should have done better long ago for the sake of student health and learning. Here are some details. NOTE: some articles will address other venues, such as office building and herds of pigs, but the point is about what ventilation can do to mitigate against an airborne pathogen.


The ventilation problem in schools: literature review

ABSTRACT: Based on a review of literature published in refereed archival journals, ventilation rates in classrooms often fall far short of the minimum ventilation rates specified in standards. There is compelling evidence, from both cross‐sectional and intervention studies, of an association of increased student performance with increased ventilation rates. There is evidence that reduced respiratory health effects and reduced student absence are associated with increased ventilation rates. Increasing ventilation rates in schools imposes energy costs and can increase heating, ventilating, and air‐conditioning system capital costs. The net annual costs, ranging from a few dollars to about 10 dollars per person, are less than 0.1% of typical public spending on elementary and secondary education in the United States. Such expenditures seem like a small price to pay given the evidence of health and performance benefits.


Effects of Classroom Ventilation Rate and Temperature on Students’ Test Scores

ABSTRACT: Using a multilevel approach, we estimated the effects of classroom ventilation rate and temperature on academic achievement. The analysis is based on measurement data from a 70 elementary school district (140 fifth grade classrooms) from Southwestern United States, and student level data (N = 3109) on socioeconomic variables and standardized test scores. There was a statistically significant association between ventilation rates and mathematics scores, and it was stronger when the six classrooms with high ventilation rates that were indicated as outliers were filtered (> 7.1 l/s per person). The association remained significant when prior year test scores were included in the model, resulting in less unexplained variability. Students’ mean mathematics scores (average 2286 points) were increased by up to eleven points (0.5%) per each liter per second per person increase in ventilation rate within the range of 0.9-7.1 l/s per person (estimated effect size 74 points). There was an additional increase of 12-13 points per each 1°C decrease in temperature within the observed range of 20-25°C (estimated effect size 67 points). Effects of similar magnitude but higher variability were observed for reading and science scores. In conclusion, maintaining adequate ventilation and thermal comfort in classrooms could significantly improve academic achievement of students.


Classroom conditions and CO2 concentrations and teacher health symptom reporting in 10 New York State Schools

ABSTRACT: This study assessed the relationship between teacher-reported symptoms and classroom carbon dioxide (CO2 ) concentrations. Previous studies have suggested that poor indoor ventilation can result in higher levels of indoor pollutants, which may affect student and teacher health. Ten schools (9 elementary, 1 combined middle/high school) in eight New York State school districts were visited over a 4-month period in 2010. Carbon dioxide concentrations were measured in classrooms over 48-h, and teachers completed surveys assessing demographic information and self-reported symptoms experienced during the current school year. Data from 64 classrooms (ranging from 1 to 9 per school) were linked with 68 teacher surveys (for four classrooms, two surveys were returned). Overall, approximately 20% of the measured classroom CO2 concentrations were above 1000 parts per million (ppm), ranging from 352 to 1591 ppm. In multivariate analyses, the odds of reporting neuro-physiologic (i.e., headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating) symptoms among teachers significantly increased (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.02-1.64) for every 100 ppm increase in maximum classroom CO2 concentrations and were non-significantly increased in classrooms with above-median proportions of CO2 concentrations greater than 1000 ppm (OR = 2.26, 95% CI = 0.72-7.12).


Ventilation control for airborne transmission of human exhaled bio-aerosols in buildings

ABSTRACT: The emergence of respiratory diseases, i.e., severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, H1N1 influenza epidemic in 2011 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak, reiterated the significance of ventilation in buildings. The role of ventilation in removing exhaled airborne bio-aerosols and preventing cross infections has been multidisciplinary extensively studied after the SARS outbreak in 2003. The characteristics of droplet-borne, short-range airborne and long-range airborne transmission of infectious diseases were identified. Increasing ventilation rate can effectively reduce the risk of long-range airborne transmission, while it may be of little useful in preventing the droplet-borne transmission. To maintain the airflow direction from clean cubicles to dirty cubicles is an effective way to prevent the cross infection between cubicles, which is widely used in hospital isolation rooms. Field measurements showed that wrong air flow direction was due to poor construction quality or maintenance. The impacts of different airflow patterns on removing large droplets and fine droplet nuclei were discussed. Some new concepts in general ventilation systems and local personalized equipment were also introduced. This review updates current knowledge of the airborne transmission of pathogens and the improvement of ventilation efficiency concerning the infection prevention.


Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments

ABSTRACT:

Background: The indoor built environment plays a critical role in our overall well-being because of both the amount of time we spend indoors (~90%) and the ability of buildings to positively or negatively influence our health. The advent of sustainable design or green building strategies reinvigorated questions regarding the specific factors in buildings that lead to optimized conditions for health and productivity.

Objective: We simulated indoor environmental quality (IEQ) conditions in “Green” and “Conventional” buildings and evaluated the impacts on an objective measure of human performance: higher-order cognitive function.

Methods: Twenty-four participants spent 6 full work days (0900-1700 hours) in an environmentally controlled office space, blinded to test conditions. On different days, they were exposed to IEQ conditions representative of Conventional [high concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)] and Green (low concentrations of VOCs) office buildings in the United States. Additional conditions simulated a Green building with a high outdoor air ventilation rate (labeled Green+) and artificially elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels independent of ventilation.

Results: On average, cognitive scores were 61% higher on the Green building day and 101% higher on the two Green+ building days than on the Conventional building day (p < 0.0001). VOCs and CO2 were independently associated with cognitive scores.

Conclusions: Cognitive function scores were significantly better under Green+ building conditions than in the Conventional building conditions for all nine functional domains. These findings have wide-ranging implications because this study was designed to reflect conditions that are commonly encountered every day in many indoor environments.


Evaluation of the Long-Term Effect of Air Filtration on the Occurrence of New PRRSV Infections in Large Breeding Herds in Swine-Dense Regions NOTE: yes, this one is about pigs who also have lungs and catch viruses. Ventilation is known to prevent that.

ABSTRACT: Airborne transmission of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is a risk factor for the infection of susceptible populations. Therefore, a long‑term sustainability study of air filtration as a means to reduce this risk was conducted. Participating herds (n = 38) were organized into 4 independent cohorts and the effect of air filtration on the occurrence of new PRRSV infections was analyzed at 3 different levels from September 2008 to January 2012 including the likelihood of infection in contemporary filtered and non-filtered herds, the likelihood of infection before and after implementation of filtration and the time to failure in filtered and non-filtered herds. Results indicated that new PRRSV infections in filtered breeding herds were significantly lower than in contemporary non-filtered control herds (P < 0.01), the odds for a new PRRSV infection in breeding herds before filtration was 7.97 times higher than the odds after filtration was initiated (P < 0.01) and the median time to new PRRSV infections in filtered breeding herds of 30 months was significantly longer than the 11 months observed in non-filtered herds (P < 0.01). In conclusion, across all 3 levels of analysis, the long-term effect of air filtration on reducing the occurrence of new PRRSV infections in the study population was demonstrated.

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