Dust, pollen, and other forms of indoor air pollution can cause respiratory distress, sinus infections, asthma attacks, and other respiratory reactions that can affect the health of students and school faculty. Even things like unaddressed dust mites, pet dander, and even the debris left behind by cockroaches can also cause indoor health problems.
Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers up a variety of recommendations for ways you can improve indoor air quality in your schools and institutions. This involves doing things like:
- Control student & faculty contact with indoor airborne allergens
- Make sure all the indoor areas are well ventilated
- Use air filters and purifiers to clean indoor air
It’s estimated that eight out of 10 people in the United States are exposed to dust mites at some point in their lives. At the same time, roughly 60% of people are exposed to some form of cat or dog dander. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the debris created by cockroaches can also cause allergic reactions in people who live in the urban areas or Southern regions of the United States.
When you consider that students and faculty can bring these allergens with them on their clothes or shoes, and the risk of them being present in buildings, it makes indoor air quality issues a top priority for helping to prevent absences.
What Are Allergens?
A lot of people hear the term “Allergens” and they just think about pet dander or airborne plant pollen. Though allergens can be any type of substance that can cause allergic reactions or can trigger asthma symptoms in vulnerable individuals. This fine particulate matter can easily be spread through the air. It can then settle onto furniture, floors, and soft surfaces.
They can even vary in size to the point that the EPA and similar institutions measure the size of airborne particles in units of microns, which is short-hand for micrometers, thinner than a human hair.
Can Indoor Allergens Be Controlled?
Controlling indoor allergens starts with recognizing the places that can trap pollen, dust, mold spores, and other fine particulate matter. This includes things like:
- Upholstered furniture
- Damp areas
- Indoor plants
- Unlaundered student winter clothing
- Wet fabrics & damp surfaces
It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of surface allergens enter the air easily when they are disturbed by casual dusting. Low-quality vacuums that pick up dirt, dust, and pollen from the carpet, can accidentally expel these fine particles into the air that students and faculty breathe.
Can Air Cleaning Devices Help Control Indoor Allergens?
Air cleaning devices that are certified to be asthma and allergy-friendly can filter almost 98% of allergen particles in the air. Over time, this can help improve indoor air quality and reduce the presence of indoor allergens. Especially in older schools and buildings that might not have updated HVAC air handling systems. Though the best way to make a significant improvement in indoor air quality in your school or professional building is to reduce the sources of allergens, while also implementing cleaning protocols to keep a low density of fine airborne particulate matter.
This starts with taking steps to reduce ambient humidity, which further helps to decrease dust mites while also helping to reduce the risk for mold growth. Making sure that all your air conditioners are well maintained, and/or upgraded to manage the necessary air volume will also help to reduce humidity. You can also turn your air conditioner to recirculation mode to further maximize HVAC air handling performance.
Keeping your windows and doors closed during high pollen times in the spring will also help reduce the volume of pollen that manages to make its way into school buildings. Encouraging students to only use double door entrances in the springtime will also help curb the influx of airborne pollen that can cause allergic reactions.
Controlling Pest-Related Indoor Allergens
Dust mites, cockroaches, and other insect pests can leave behind a significant amount of particulate matter and debris. Keeping surfaces and storage areas cleaned and reasonably uncluttered as well as taking time to clean out and dust old inventory areas will help keep unwanted pests from feeling welcome.
Thoroughly cleaning all carpet and upholstered surfaces with a sealed HEPA filter vacuum cleaner and limiting to low-pile carpets or throw rugs will also help. Also avoid heavy drapes and window coverings, which can trap dust, pollen, and insect debris.
All carpets, upholstered items, and other soft surfaces need to be vacuumed at least once or twice a week. Vacuuming with a sealed HEPA filter vacuum system also helps keep allergens low. Poor quality vacuums could put dust and mite dander into the air.
Reduce the Risk of Airborne Mold Spores
Mold spores live in nature and float in the air looking for a moist, damp surface to germinate into a colony. When they do, they release an increasing volume of mold spores and mycotoxins. This can cause further respiratory irritation, allergic reactions, and asthma attacks. Children and faculty members with respiratory health conditions, autoimmune conditions, or allergies can have increased, severe reactions to an environment with high mold spore density.
Cleaning up all areas of water damage and pipe leaks as soon as they happen will reduce the available moisture mold spores can use to germinate. Making sure that your air conditioners are up to date and well-maintained will also help prevent condensation buildup.
If you do notice signs of a mold issue in a lesser-used room, it needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible. Isolating the room and closing off the ventilation system for the cleanup, will help reduce the risk of a disturbed mold colony releasing spores that can spread to other parts of the school or faculty office spaces.
Hiring a Professional Cleaning Service
A lot of school custodial staff members are employees, like bus drivers who are tasked with a lot of other responsibilities, and not a lot of professional training in industry best cleaning practices for schools. When you hire out a professional cleaning service like Building Services, you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have highly trained professionals cleaning and monitoring every square inch of your institution.