You can use the US EPA's "IAQ and Student Performance" site to learn how IAQ hurts student health and performance, so that you can make the case for comprehensive IAQ management in your schools.
Safety in the Breathing Zone
What's that smell?
Watch out for strong smelling school and office supplies, cleaning products and other solvents.
Why? Because they damage your breathing system -- from the sinuses to the lungs. Solvents can cause life-threatening asthma, pneumonia and emphysema.
Solvents can also damage your liver, kidneys and nervous system.
Warning signs of bad air:
you have lots of colds, sinus infections, itchy eyes, runny nose.
you have headaches.
you have trouble controlling your asthma.
you feel irritable, shaky, dizzy and forgetful.
Teachers Can Improve Breathing Safety.
Report poor ventilation and poor sanitation promptly so school managers can fix conditions that lead to illness, pests and mold.
Be alert for sources of indoor air pollution and poisons in your classroom.
Read product labels on all classroom supplies and on products in offices, custodian closets, art rooms, labs and shops.
Do not use a product with a label warning such as "caution" or "use with adequate ventilation." Do not use unlabeled products.
Use water-based school supplies such as non-scented water-based markers, dry correction tape, and water-based glue (white glues or glue sticks) and "no odor" paints. Do not use scented and solvent-based school and cleaning supplies.
Note: an "AP Non-Toxic" label from the Art and Creative Material Institute does not indicate an absence of solvents. The Institute does not evaluate products for breathing hazards or risks of chronic exposure. If in doubt, contact the product manufacturer or Poison Control Center, 800-222-1222.
Beware synthetic fragrances. Do not wear perfume or use personal care, cosmetics or laundry products with fragrances.
Adopt purchasing guidelines to eliminate allergens, irritants and toxics such as inhalants, solvents and synthetic fragrances.
Educate about health-based methods for landscaping and pest control.
Stop the use of herbicides and insecticides.
Lessons Learned: Lives Saved. Teach Safety and Teach Safely
Know that solvents are common in shops, vocational programs, science and art classes and cleaning products.
Teach students that these products are POISON and/or highly flammable liquids and gases.
Teach, model and enforce occupational health and hygiene rules in shops, labs and classes.
Teach about proper ventilation and lung health in all health education, first aid, fire safety, arts and crafts, technical-vocational, cosmetology, culinary arts, consumer health, baby-sitting and lab and science lessons and community health promotion activities.
Check with your state Safe and Drug Free Schools Program for educational and outreach information to educate your students, your school, and your community about the risks of solvents and other inhalants.
References and Resources
1. Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Campaign. Educational and outreach resources to educate your students, your school, and your community on the risks of solvents and other inhalants. www.mass.gov/dph/inhalant
2. The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide, by Monona Rossol, 3rd edition, Allworth Press, NY. November, 2001. www.artscraftstheatersafety.org
3. Healthy Schools Network, Inc. www.healthyschools.org.
4. Chemical Use Reduction for Improved Indoor Air Quality in Schools, Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs, (May, 1999) Report of on-site visits to 34 schools to reduce risks from chemical use and improve indoor air quality, coordinated with US EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools program.
The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)