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Addressing Indoor Air Quality in Schools: Insights from the Second EDIAQI Webinar

Panel discussion segment of the second EDIAQI webinar with Henry Burridge, Ernesto Alfaro-Moreno, Jessica Fernandez, and Alex Borg

According to the OECD, children globally spend approximately 900 hours per year in school settings, where they remain indoors for about six hours each day. Indoor air quality (IAQ) in many European schools frequently exceeds the maximum limits set by WHO guidelines. This poor air quality has been linked to negative health and cognitive outcomes for children, who are particularly vulnerable due to their ongoing growth and development. Beyond health implications, poor IAQ has also been associated with diminished cognitive focus and reduced school attendance.

This critical issue, with broad societal implications, was the focus of the latest EDIAQI webinar titled "Clearing the Air: The Educational Imperative for Healthy Indoor Air Quality in Schools". The webinar was co-organised by the LEARN and EDIAQI projects, both members of the IDEAL cluster, with participation from the SAMHE project. The event aimed to address the following questions:

  • How can we effectively measure IAQ in schools and understand its health and cognitive implications?
  • What measures are currently being taken in Europe to address IAQ in schools?
  • What strategies and policies should be implemented to improve IAQ in schools across Europe?
Henry Burridge Presentation of the SAMHE Project

Henry Burridge, a professor at Imperial College London and the coordinator of the SAMHE project (Schools Air Quality Monitoring for Health and Education), provided an overview of this ambitious initiative. Currently, the project has deployed monitors in over 1,300 schools across the United Kingdom. They have also co-created a web app and produced a set of engaging activities for students. Henry emphasised that a central aim of the project is to empower students to take ownership of the IAQ in their schools.

Ernesto Alfaro-Moreno Presentation of the LEARN Project

Ernesto Alfaro-Moreno, Head of Nanosafety at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory and scientific coordinator of the LEARN project, discussed the LEARN project's efforts to monitor IAQ in schools. Ernesto detailed how the project has installed novel sensors to measure harmful air pollutants, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Ultrafine Particles (UFPs), in several schools across Europe. These efforts aim to assess the health and cognitive outcomes associated with IAQ. The project also uses C. elegans, fluorescent worms as biosensors, human-based in vitro models of lung and skin, and revolutionary multi-sensing devices to investigate the mechanisms of toxicity in real-time.

Jessica Fernandez presentation of the EDIAQI Project training materials for children

Jessica Fernandez, Professor at the University of Sevilla and the Work Package 6 leader of the EDIAQI project, discussed the different school environments across Europe where EDIAQI has set up low-cost sensorics. Jessica also presented training materials for children, an accompanying teacher’s guide, and a video series designed to empower children and educators to take control of IAQ in their schools. These training materials include information about different indoor pollutants, their sources, and ways to control IAQ.

The webinar featured a lively debate, with discussions flowing actively in the chat. The final question from the audience concerned the link between COVID-19 and the IAQ projects. Jessica highlighted that while COVID-19 is a serious concern, many other pollutants have significant health and cognitive implications. Henry stressed that COVID-19 is a serious disease with potentially long-term effects, but other pollutants also pose health and cognitive risks. Ernesto concurred, noting that while COVID-19 is a significant issue, global air pollution is linked to over 7 million deaths annually.

The recording of the webinar is now available on the EDIAQI YouTube channel. For more details about these projects, the educational implications of IAQ, and long-term strategies to improve IAQ in educational settings throughout Europe, this webinar is a must-watch. More webinars in the EDIAQI series are planned for the future.