Environmental Health

Dare to Clean Up the Air - Upload Knowledge

If you’re interested in learning about specific indoor air pollutants and the documented health effects of them, the EPA’s Health Hazard Notebook offers a wealth of information for whatever pollutant you want to know more about.

Interested in teaching a unit on Indoor Air Quality to your students? Check out the program reviewed by our website: The Teacher’s Guide to Indoor Air Pollutants

Many IAQ pollutants are odorless, tasteless, or invisible, but radon is all three. Take the time to learn about radon, which is naturally occurring and cannot be eliminated by good ventilation and buying environmentally-friendly products. It is a radioactive gas formed from naturally decaying uranium in rocks and soil. It’s found in homes and schools across the country, and we breathe it in all the time. However, concentrations of it are generally higher in closed spaces, especially near ground-level where it can collect by entering through cracks in concrete floors and walls, dirt floors, floor drains, sumps, joints, tiny openings in hollow brick walls and through underground water supplies.

Radon gas affects people by releasing decay products which attach themselves to particles in the air and are inhaled into the lungs. The radioactivity damages cells lining the lungs. According to the National Lung Cancer Institute , radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in 15,000 to 22,000 deaths per year.

Asbestos used to be another frequent air quality hazard in schools as it was used in building materials because it is strong, heat resistant, and effective insulator. It is present in many schools that were built before 1973. When it is dormant it is safe, but because it’s made of small fibers, when disturbed by construction or natural decay, it becomes airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, causing health problems, such as lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestos.net provides comprehensive information about all the health risks. Also check out the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center which offers a free mesothelioma information packet, as well as other educational materials.

Now asbestos is regulated by federal requirements and your school is likely active in meeting the requirements. But, for help or questions about managing the risk of asbestos, click here for regional and state contacts or visit Asbestos.Net.

For more information about IAQ, call the Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-438-4318, open from 9-5:00 p.m. (EST), Monday-Friday.