And the discussion goes on in Belgium. Parents are worried about the air quality for their children in schools, classrooms and day-care centers.
A lot of schools are located in cities where airpollution is high and often in streetcanyons.
In other countries like The Netherlands, there are thousends of CO2 monitors installed in schools and classrooms. Students can see for themselves if airquality is low and will ask to open the windows.
But not only CO2 or NO2 should be measured, there are several toxic gasses and ultrafine particles that are harmful. The lungs of children are very sensitive and still in development, take care of them.
A comfortable and healthy indoor climate is important for everyone. In a sufficiently ventilated room it is nice to stay, learn or work. In many offices, schools, nurseries and homes, the ventilation facilities are often faulty or are not used properly. As a result, there is insufficient supply of fresh air. Insufficient ventilation leads to insufficient oxygen in the room and to a bad discharge of odors, particulates, moisture, germs, micro-organisms and harmful chemicals. If such substances accumulate, health complaints and reduced performance are a direct consequence.
You can take action at various levels: as a citizen, as a school and as a local and higher government. And we want to encourage that with concrete tips.
As a concerned parent you can join with other parents and start a conversation with your school management. It is also advisable for schools to look for realistic solutions for your specific situation together with the parents. Specifically, you can propose a number of measures to improve air quality:
You can set up something that lurks car traffic in the street of the school at the beginning and end of a school day. It makes the air healthier, the traffic safer and the atmosphere more pleasant.
- Shut down car engines when waiting in front of the school.
- You can prohibit to park at the school and offer alternative parking spaces.
- You can reward children who come to school on foot or by bike.
- You can give cycling lessons at school, offer a map with safe routes to go to school and provide sufficient bicycle parking.
- You can organize a turnaround to accompany the children to school by bike.
- If solving a street canyon is not immediately an option, you can argue for investing in better ventilation systems in the school. Or purchase a CO2 meter to know when the hard-working brain needs fresh air supply. From a height of 15 meters, ventilation has the best effect.
In 61% of Belgian school areas the air is polluted
In only 3% good air quality is measured, as is the conclusion of a large-scale study executed by Greenpeace in 222 Belgian schools, of which 64% in Flanders, 17% in Brussels and 19% in Wallonia.
Almost half of them (46%) are situated in rural areas, 54% in urban zones. The ones in rural areas nonetheless not being the most ‘healthy’ schools. source
222 Belgian schools took part in Greenpeace’s “My air, my school” investigation. Only seven schools were found to have air quality of a satisfactory level. At 76 schools the air quality was acceptable, but at all others there was at least cause for concern.
As a result of higher exhaust emissions nitrogen dioxide concentrations were 13% higher during school hours.
For four weeks nitrogen dioxide levels in the air were measured at the school gate, on the playground and in the class. Schools took part on a voluntary basis and were not selected as representative. Still each school will receive its individual findings as well as a set of recommendations.
Some articles and organisations regarding better air quality in schools: