Is education really accessible to all students?

Bad air makes learning difficult and creates exclusionary classrooms.

In Sweden, one in ten people are affected by asthma and one in four people have a pollen allergy. Let the numbers sink in. These are simple and straightforward facts. Many of us - or have someone in our immediate vicinity - can testify to how difficult it is to concentrate, be productive or have energy when such air problems are at their worst.

Of course, not all allergy sufferers have daily problems all year round and far from all have severe symptoms. But about half of them do. And what about the children in every classroom who also have asthma or other respiratory diseases? We know that 10% of the population have daily challenges with these diseases and that this also applies to school children.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, respiratory diseases are in fact the most common cause of school absences. They report that asthma-related illnesses alone account for a staggering 14 million missed American school days each year.

The numbers are frightening and even if we were to include only children and young people with more severe challenges, it is likely that around one in five or six students feel that education is not fully accessible to them on an equal basis - unless we address the issue of poor air quality.

Harmful particles come from many sources

Air pollution in schools comes from various sources and air quality is affected from a 'building' perspective by both internal and external sources. In older schools, harmful particles can be generated by a number of problem areas within the building itself, from radon and asbestos to mold and dust.

Schools built in recent years sometimes face the challenge of overly tight buildings with clear deficiencies in natural ventilation. In addition, there can be a negative impact from synthetic building materials and furniture that generate harmful particles.

Ventilation itself is often a challenge from many perspectives, but is not a solution to the problem of particles. At best, new air is added. Usually only circulation is supplied and measured, not air quality - obviously, effective air purification must be solved by other means.

8 out of 10 particles are generated by daily indoor activities.

It is also important not to forget that around 80% of the particle content is generated by daily activities. Not least through human activity in the premises.

Often, the intake of external pollutants and particles from outdoor air, such as traffic exhaust, pollen and smoke, adds to the mix of pure bad indoor air in classrooms. Worryingly, studies show that unhealthy particle levels are commonly 2 to 5 times higher indoors than just outside the classroom window.

At the same time, the situation is far from hopeless. Modern technology offers practical and effective tools to combat indoor air pollution, and there are tailored solutions, backed by scientific evidence, to address the challenges of air quality in schools. It should be a matter of course to invest in solutions to reduce the problems in our classrooms and make every effort to bring all children on board when the train of knowledge leaves the platform. 

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