Lawrence Livermore Laboratory – Proven Benefits of Improving Indoor Air Quality

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In school settings, numerous studies improvements in indoor air quality have been linked to enhanced student performance as well as reduced student and teacher absenteeism rates.

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The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is one of many groups that has conducted studies specifically validating the benefits of improving indoor air quality in schools:

Many of the studies from schools also showed significant health risks from dampness and mold, but the overall evidence of increased health risks from dampness in schools is not as consistent and robust as the evidence of increased health risks in damp offices. In particular, many studies included a small number of schools — sometimes only one damp and one dry school, so there is a substantial chance that building factors other than dampness and mold that differed among the damp and dry schools could have caused the reported differences in health outcomes. A second major weakness is that many studies had a small number of subjects leading to poor statistical power for detecting increased health risks among occupants of damp and moldy schools. Several studies are described below:

In the largest study, of 2751 schools within New York [56], students’ absence rates were generally higher in schools with indications of moisture or mold problems, and, for about half of the indicators of moisture and mold, the increases in absence were statistically significant. The analyses of study data did control for several potential confounding factors such as measures of socio-economic status and pupil-teacher ratio. The study design has some inherent weaknesses including use of pooled data for the whole school, as opposed to data for individual students.

Another large study, involving 4365 students in 24 damp schools and eight dry schools, reported statistically significant 40% to 50% increases in some categories of cough symptoms in the damp schools, but no significant increases in other health symptoms [75].

A study of 1077 students from eight schools in Japan [54] found a statistically significant increase in nasal symptoms in classrooms with increased dampness, after control for several potential confounding factors. For eye symptoms, cough, and skin symptoms, the associations with dampness were inconsistent and not statistically significant.

A study of just over 1000 students in eight damp and seven dry schools reported statistically significant and larger than 100% increases in throat irritation, headache, and dizziness where mold counts in floor dust were higher; however, symptoms did not increase if the schools had more visible “moisture and mold patches” [68]. Subsequent additional analyses of the data from this same study found that the increases in symptoms with higher levels of molds in floor dust occurred only in boys and not-yet-menstruating girls [69].

A study of 762 students from 28 classrooms in eleven schools reported statistically significant increases in current asthma in classrooms with higher mold and bacteria counts in air and with higher indoor air relative humidity [72].

A study of 654 students from 46 classrooms in Europe [55] found that classrooms with higher airborne levels of mold, determined via culture-plate methods, had statistically significant increases in dry cough at night, persistent cough, and rhinitis (nasal inflammation with secretion or congestion), after controlling for several potential confounding factors. Increases in some specific types of molds in dust, from DNA-based analyses, were also linked to wheeze, rhinitis, and cough, and with measures of lung function.