Indoor air quality and its effects on student health and performance

Donna Almendrala, Anna Yeung, Sophia Dieu, Bai Yi Chen, and Jin Feng Yu

Particulate matter is an important indicator of air quality and can be the couse of several health problem including asthma. The goal of our investigation was to study particular matter concentration in different location in our school. We used a handheld particle counter (Fluke 983) to measure particulate matter concentration, and to determine relative indoor air quality based on the sizes of the particulate matter. The Fluke can measure particulate matter of sizes 0.3, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 5.0, and 10.0 �m. Particulate matter of sizes smaller than 2.5 �m is called fine particles and sizes up to 10.0 �m are called coarse particles. Both kinds are harmful to health due to their extremely small size, which allows the particles to remain in the lungs if inhaled. A number of diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, and other harmful conditions can develop depending on the physical and chemical characteristics of the inhaled particles.. To conduct our research, we sampled 33 locations throughout the school, including classrooms and outdoor areas such as parking lots. We took two sets of measurements, once in March and again in April. We also took a survey of a sample of classrooms in order to ascertain whether the air quality of Oakland Technical contributed to asthmatic problems and student performance. We found high concentrations of particulate matter in one of the classroom, the steps in the front of school, the student cafeteria, and the stairway. These are locations that have high students and school personnel traffic and are often crowded throughout the day. During the sampling days, the school was undergoing renovations which caused particulate matter to be higher at the locations nearer to construction. This increase in particulate matter is more than twice the average concentration. There are also indications of bad ventilation in these areas reflected in the very high concentrations of particular matter. Our survey data was inconclusive because of the unwillingness of students to participate in the survey. In the future, we would want to study our school further when construction is over and more is known about our ventilation system.