Knowledge of, and Attitudes to, Indoor Air Pollution in Kuwaiti Students, Teachers and University Faculty

Article excerpt

The concentrations of air pollutants in residences can be many times those in outside air, and many of these pollutants are known to have adverse health consequences. Despite this, there have been very few attempts to delineate knowledge of, and attitudes to, indoor air pollution. This study aimed to establish the knowledge of, and attitudes to, indoor air pollution in high school students and teachers, and in university students and faculty members, in Kuwait. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to a representative sample of high school students and teachers and of university students and faculty members. Overall mean values for knowledge and attitudes were 7.78/19 (41%) and 3.86/5 respectively, indicating a low knowledge and suboptimal attitude. Teachers were significantly more knowledgeable than students at both secondary (OR 2.9) and university (OR 1.8) levels. Overall, books were the chief source of knowledge (57.4%) and family the lowest (25.4%). Females had significantly higher scores for attitude than did males (OR 1.6), and secondary school teachers than students (OR 1.9). There was a highly significant Pearson correlation (0.34, p <0.001) between knowledge and attitude.

Keywords: air pollution, indoor air pollution, students, teachers, Kuwait

Introduction

Studies from the United States and Europe show that persons in industrialized nations spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors (US Environmental Protection Agency, 1989). A study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (1987) found levels of volatile organic chemicals in residences up to ten times greater than in outdoor air in the vicinity of petrochemical plants. Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health, but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects (American Lung Association/Environmental Protection Agency/Consumer Product Safety Commission/American Medical Association, 1994).

Despite the acknowledged importance of indoor air pollution, few surveys of knowledge and attitudes have been conducted. A Medline search with the terms 'knowledge', 'attitudes', and 'indoor air pollution' returned only eight relevant entries. Three of these concern environmental tobacco smoke (Walsh et al, 2002; Jochelson et al, 2003; Lund & Helgaron, 2005), two (actually one and a comment) dust mite (Callahan et al, 2003; Wild & Lopez, 2003), one radon (Eheman et al, 1996), one pesticides (Campbell et al, 1999), and one several factors related to asthma (Finkelstein et al, 2003). None attempted to assess the level of knowledge of, and attitudes to, indoor air pollution from a range of common sources or within an educational setting.

Because of its hot, arid climate, people in Kuwait tend to spend a high percentage of their time indoors, thus increasing exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further, buildings tend to be well sealed from the outside to increase the efficiency of airconditioning, again increasing the opportunity for build-up of indoor air pollutants. Despite this, and despite the well-known health effects of indoor air pollution, very little work has been done in Kuwait on knowledge of, and attitudes to, indoor air pollution. The aim of this research was to partially remedy this situation and to provide health educators with an indication of the extent of the problem, the emphasis that should be placed on its solution, and approaches that may be successful in remedying any deficiencies.

The questions this study attempted to answer were:

1. What is the extent of knowledge of indoor air pollution among Kuwaiti students and teachers?

2. What sources do they have for this knowledge?

3. What attitudes do Kuwaiti students and teachers have towards indoor air pollution?

Method

A cross-sectional school-based (secondary schools) or faculty-based (university) cluster sample design was used to produce a representative sample of students and teachers. …