248884 “Free to breathe, free to teach:” Indoor air quality in schools and respiratory health of teachers

Monday, October 31, 2011

Kim A. Angelon-Gaetz, MSPH , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
David Richardson, PhD , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Karin Yeatts, PhD , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Background and Objective: Recent research suggests that teachers have a higher prevalence of asthma than expected. Asthma exacerbations and allergies resulting from poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools can reduce teachers' productivity, concentration, and attendance. School buildings often exhibit IAQ problems due to the high occupancy and scarce maintenance funds. Excessive moisture is a recurrent problem which increases exposure to asthma triggers such as mold, dust mites, roaches, and rodents. We are investigating the indoor air quality and asthma exacerbations and allergies among North Carolina public school teachers. Methods: Structural factors affecting indoor air quality (IAQ) are assessed in participating schools through walk through inspections, modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “IAQ Tools for Schools” procedures. Relative humidity is monitored over time using data logging hygrometers in classrooms. Study participants are full-time classroom teachers who complete weekly surveys on respiratory health outcomes and classroom conditions. Results: Data were collected at 4 schools from 40 participants, who were followed for 4-8 weeks. Relative humidity ranged from 7-80%; and 20% of participants reported previously diagnosed asthma. Five more schools have been recruited to participate. Conclusions: We expect our results to provide locally relevant, scientific evidence of practical methods to reduce asthma triggers in schools through preventative maintenance and humidity control.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe the challenges of maintaining good indoor air quality in schools. 2.Discuss ways to educate building occupants on alternatives to classroom irritants. 3.List the asthma triggers that may be reduced by controlling relative humidity. 4.Assess the health effects of extreme relative humidity on classroom teachers.

Keywords: Asthma, Indoor Environment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: The abstract describes my dissertation research project, for which I have primary responsibility. Under the oversight of my dissertation committee, I conceived of the research questions, acquired funding, conducted the data collection, literature review, and data analysis, and managed all research assistants and trainers.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.