Strategy 3: Provide a Healthy School Environment
Students, teachers, and staff spend the majority of their day throughout the year on the school campus. When the school environment is unhealthy, through either indoor or outdoor pollutants, it can have a negative effect on those with asthma and even cause health-related illnesses in those without asthma. Schools must be prepared to provide a healthy learning environment to ensure the success and overall wellbeing of all students and school staff.
Environmental irritants and allergens can cause asthma symptoms, often referred to as asthma triggers. It is necessary for students, teachers and staff to be informed about asthma triggers. Read more about healthy air and how to protect healthy air at school.
Proactively maintain healthy Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
To ensure healthy indoor air at school, there are a number of policy, program, and maintenance activities that can help to protect students with asthma as well as the entire student body.
The following 8 steps can be taken to support healthy indoor air at school:
- Raise awareness among school personnel, students, parents, and communities about federal regulations that protect those with asthma.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Fact Sheet
- The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
- Tip Sheet: Policies & Legislative Issues Affecting Asthma in Schools
- Sample Union Contract Language Supporting IAQ Plans
- Sample Carpet/Flooring Policy
- Sample Fragrance-free School Policy
- Healthy Schools Campaign’s Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning
It is important to note that green does not necessarily mean healthy. When purchasing a cleaning product, be sure to review the chemicals list for items that can cause asthma symptoms (asthmagens), instructions for use, and fragrances, which can all be possible triggers for those with asthma.
- Fact Sheet: EPA’s Easy-to-Use Environmental Management Tools
- Healthy Air Walkthrough Classroom Checklist
Assure comprehensive tobacco-free buildings and grounds
Secondhand smoke is unhealthy for all people and can trigger symptoms for those with asthma. In order to protect the student community through a comprehensive tobacco-free campus, it is important to (1) enact tobacco-free laws and regulations, (2) adopt school board policies mandating tobacco-free schools, (3) education school personnel, students, parents and the community about tobacco policies, and (4) develop systems to enforce those policies.
- State of North Carolina Tobacco-Free Schools policy sample
- Sample presentation outline to school board/association about tobacco-free campus policy
Use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to control pests
Pesticide exposure can have both short-term and long-term health effects on all people. The use of IPM is a recommended and environmentally safe approach to pest management that is part of an overall IAQ management plan. Be sure to check with your state to determine if IPM is mandated in local schools.
The Environmental Protection Agency IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit includes an IPM Checklist for school grounds and maintenance staff.
Manage student exposure on high outdoor air pollution
There are a number of resources available to track localized outdoor air pollution, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index. When ozone or particle pollution reaches orange or red levels, those with asthma or other health-related issues should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. To raise awareness of outdoor air quality to the school community, learn more about the EPA’s School Flag Program.
- Air Quality Index Fact Sheet
- Sample Policy for Managing Students’ Exposure to Outdoor Air Pollution
- Sample Letter to Parent about Ozone and your Child’s Health (English)
- Sample Letter to Parent about Ozone and your Child’s Health (Spanish)
- Solutions for Physical Education and Recess on High Ozone Days