Pollution de l'air dans les écoles : des cas d'asthme évitable

Air pollution in schools: 30,000 cases of asthma preventable

“Santé Publique France conducted a study aiming to assess the impacts of air pollution in classrooms of elementary schools. According to the study, more than 30,000 cases of asthma and 12,000 cases of wheezing are reported each year. The study demonstrates that this could be due to students’ exposure to two major pollutants: formaldehyde and mold in the classrooms. 

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120 million students start school every year.
The causes of air pollution in schools.
Measuring indoor air quality: a major issue for students’ health.

120 million students start school every year

Children spend the majority of their time (90%) in indoor environments, such as schools or daycare centers. Ensuring good indoor air quality (IAQ) in educational institutions is a public health issue.

The exposure of children to air pollution has received increasing attention in recent years due to their heightened sensitivity. They are indeed subject to a greater exposure to substances in the air compared to adults due to the larger volume of air they breathe relative to their weight and also have immature immune and respiratory systems.

Recent data regarding French schools, published by the Observatory of Indoor Air Quality (OQAI), confirms the presence of various pollutants as well as inadequate air renewal in classrooms. Following these findings, Santé Publique France released a first quantitative assessment of health impacts (EQIS), made public on January 30, 2024, which highlights that pollution from formaldehyde and mold in schools causes 30,000 new cases of asthma and nearly 12,000 cases of wheezing each year. This alarming statistic underscores the pressing need to take measures to improve indoor air quality in educational institutions.


💡 Good to know: Air quality monitoring (IAQ) becomes annual and mandatory in establishments receiving the public (ERP), particularly in schools. CO2 level monitoring has been mandatory in preschools and elementary schools as well as in nurseries since January 1, 2018, and in recreational centers, middle schools, and high schools since January 1, 2020. Diagnose your spaces without delay.

The causes of air pollution in schools

Several factors contribute to indoor air pollution in schools: poor ventilation, use of toxic chemicals, mold, emissions from building materials, and the use of aggressive cleaning products (formaldehydes). These combined elements create an environment conducive to poor air quality, thereby endangering the health of students.

👉Formaldehyde, a pollutant present in many everyday products

According to a recent study by Santé Publique France, the primary factor to which children are exposed in classrooms is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is an organic chemical compound (VOC) found absolutely everywhere in a classroom. In markers, glue tubes, linoleum on the floor, furniture occupying space, synthetic materials, paints, cleaning products…

Formaldehyde can cause respiratory tract irritation, respiratory problems, and skin allergies. Since 2004, formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogenic substance by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

👉 Mold, a well-known risk factor for childhood asthma

The second pollutant causing asthma cases in children turns out to be mold. Often overlooked, mold is microscopic fungi that typically appear in damp and poorly ventilated environments and can pose serious health risks, especially to children.

Inhalation of mold spores can have health effects and cause respiratory problems such as allergies and asthma. Mold can also trigger skin irritations and allergic reactions in sensitive children. It is crucial to maintain a dry and well-ventilated school environment by identifying and eliminating sources of mold to prevent these potential health risks for students.

Measuring indoor air quality: a major challenge for student health

The results of this study indicate that improving air quality at school could prevent nearly 30,000 cases of asthma among 6-11 year olds. Children constitute the most vulnerable population to asthma, affecting between 10 to 16% of them according to data from the Elfe cohort.

In addition to preventing asthma, good indoor air quality offers numerous benefits:

The importance of good air quality in schools

It is crucial to realize that pollution remains a major global challenge, whether within indoor or outdoor environments. Even if a child avoids exposure to formaldehyde and mold by leaving the classroom, other pollutants may threaten them elsewhere. This complexity underscores the importance of constant vigilance towards air quality to reduce health risks for children (and adults).

Meersens solutions analyze the impact of the environment (air, noise, pollen, UV, brightness, humidity…) on health indoors and outdoors, thus providing a proactive approach to tackle this challenge and ensure a healthy environment for all.

Do you want to improve air quality in your establishments receiving the public (ERP)?

Air pollution in schools: 30,000 cases of asthma preventable

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