The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a set of guidelines to help states establish and maintain environmental health programs for schools. Part of EPA’s Healthy Schools program, “Voluntary Guidelines for States: Development and Implementation of a School Environmental Health Program” is aimed at states, school districts, K–12 schools, and individuals, and can be adapted for other school-related institutions, such as childcare centers.
EPA bolstered the guidelines with a model K-12 school environmental health program that addresses a wide range of environmental health issues including:
· Indoor air quality problems resulting from inadequate ventilation; mold and other allergens; chemicals and pesticides commonly found in schools; contaminants such as radon and diesel exhaust that could enter schools from outside; and specific hazards like elemental mercury, lead paint, and polychlorinated biphenyls
· Drinking water issues
· Safety hazards related to improperly stored or managed chemicals
· Natural day lighting
· Other issues relating to the health, comfort, productivity, and performance of building occupants
The guidelines include case studies on how certain school districts have succeeded in improving indoor air quality, boosting energy efficiency, and reducing water consumption. Estimates of cost savings are provided along with a tally of dollars spent on system upgrades and retrofits.
The document also offers steps for ongoing maintenance to preserve indoor air quality and systems efficiency including regular HVAC inspection, selection of low-emitting paints and cleaners, and revision of school bus schedules to minimize idling. It also provides suggestions for educating staff and students on how they can help boost energy and water efficiency.
For more information, seewww.epa.gov/schools and http://www.epa.gov/schools/ehguidelines/index.html