Indoor air quality monitoring has been a hot topic for several years now, a topic whose importance has been reinforced by the COVID-19 health crisis.
Decrees No. 2011-1728 of December 2, 2011, and No. 2012-14 of January 5, 2012, concerning the control of Indoor Air Quality in Establishments Receiving the Public (ERP) obliges the latter to monitor the indoor air quality within their establishments. Over the years, the decree continues to extend to different categories of establishments including hospitals and social or medico-social establishments and will be put into effect by 2023.
Today, the establishments concerned by this regulation are as follows:
- Institutions for collective reception of children under 6 years old (nurseries, day care centres, etc.)
- Leisure centres
- Educational or professional training establishments (nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools, etc.)
Mandatory air quality monitoring in schools
Indoor air quality monitoring has, therefore, been compulsory in nursery and elementary schools since January 1, 2018, and in leisure centres, primary schools, and secondary schools since January 1, 2020. It is now mandatory to monitor the concentrations of formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon dioxide (CO2) in these establishments.
Why is this? We do not always realise it, but the concentration of pollutants can be higher in these establishments than in most others. This is mainly due to the density of occupation but also due to poor aeration and ventilation which results in poor renewal of indoor air and an accumulation of pollution.
You should also know that indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air, 5 to 10 times more polluted on average. Increased vigilance is, therefore, necessary.
Which types of pollutants put us at risk?
Children, teachers, and school staff are potentially exposed to several pollutants in schools and social establishments on a daily basis. These pollutants can be emitted by furniture, cleaning products or even school supplies (paints, markers, etc.).
In addition to these internal sources, other sources must be taken into account and can have an impact on indoor air quality: lifestyle, outdoor pollution, building ventilation, or the number of people in the establishment in question. For example, the permanent presence of around thirty students in a poorly ventilated room can cause the humidity level to rise significantly and therefore promote the development of mould.
Among the main pollutants are:
- VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): these include a large proportion of the most common chemical pollutants. They can be of natural origin (vegetation and chemical reaction) or human (industrial activity, glues, solvents, paints, cleaning products). Very volatile, they spread quickly and with ease.
- Fine particles: these are small particles present in the atmosphere in solid or liquid form. They can be of "natural" origin (germs, pollens, etc.), or linked to human activity (wood heating, smoke, dust, etc.). They can be allergenic, irritating or even toxic.
- Formaldehyde: this is the main indoor air pollutant since it is heavily present in glues, ceilings, furniture, and paints, amongst other sources.
- Benzene: this is a very volatile colourless liquid used in industry and can be found indoors. It occurs naturally in crude oil and gasoline, automotive exhaust, gasoline evaporation, etc. Benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, headaches, or tremors.
Furthermore, a study carried out on 300 establishments in 2009 showed that 27% of establishments have rooms with insufficient ventilation problems and that in 11% of cases, sources of formaldehyde and benzene detected by the diagnosis of the quality of indoor air had to be sought.
The risks for children and teachers
As we have discussed here at greater length, the immediate effects of exposure to high doses of pollutants are irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, among others.
Some of the more severe immediate symptoms are headaches, nausea, cough, asthma attacks, and irritation of the skin and mucous membranes.
In the long term, severely degraded air quality can lead to respiratory diseases and allergies, breathing disorders (bronchial hypersensitivity or reduced breathing capacity), eczema, asthma, balance disorders, or even cancer. Poor air quality is, therefore, linked to increased mortality. As such, it is necessary to deal with these problems at the source in order to ensure maximum safety for staff, teachers, and children within establishments.
What are the solutions?
Because pollution is not visible and has no smell, it is important to constantly measure and monitor indoor air quality in order to detect sources of pollution.
First of all, it is necessary to check the ventilation within the establishment as well as the classrooms, cafeteria, sports halls, etc. For this, an evaluation of the aeration and ventilation systems in place can be performed in order to determine their operating condition. If poor results are detected during the air quality measurement, new arrangements will therefore be required.
It is also possible to invest in sensors and monitors to continually track air quality. Although they will not be able to actively reduce indoor pollution, they are real indicators allowing you to act accordingly based on the information provided (opening of windows, etc.).
To take it one step further, air purifiers are a real solution since they allow you to monitor indoor air quality while taking concrete action to reduce the concentration of pollutants in the room.
Air purifiers are effective and are recognised as a technology that plays an effective part in the fight against COVID-19. Recently the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France funded a study which published its conclusions on the effectiveness of air purifiers such as ours. The results can be viewed in the following article: COVID: the effectiveness of air purifiers against SARS-CoV-2 validated by a Lyon study.
We have also worked with Octopus Lab, a French company, to quantify the impact of our air purifiers on the transmission of the virus and on the rate of fine particles in concrete and realistic scenarios (such as in a cafeteria). You will find the results here.
The eight filtration stages present in AIRVIA Medical air purifiers have been designed to guarantee improved air quality in the room where it is placed. Find out more about our range here.