Indoor Air Quality: Day-Care Issues and Operator Awareness

By LaFollette, Sharron; Hobson, Angela et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Indoor Air Quality: Day-Care Issues and Operator Awareness


LaFollette, Sharron, Hobson, Angela, Crank, Jessica R., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


ABSTRACT

This pilot study was developed to increase the awareness of day-care operators with regards to indoor air quality (IAQ). A brochure was developed to explain IAQ and the potential health hazards inflicted upon children as a result of exposure to poor IAQ. A survey inquiring about the operators' awareness prior to reading the brochure was developed as well. The brochure and survey were mailed to the 2,932 day-care centers licensed in Illinois. The responses from returned surveys were analyzed to determine operator awareness and the likelihood of implementing a program to control/prevent IAQ problems in the facility.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air quality (IAQ) as one of the top five environmental health risks to the public. Most people spend approximately 90% of the time indoors where indoor air has the potential to be contaminated two to five times more than that of the outdoor air. It is no surprise that exposure to indoor air pollutants can adversely affect human health.

All buildings (residential and commercial) contain potential sources that may contribute to poor IAQ. These sources range from biological agents to chemicals. Exposure to these pollutants indoors can lead to short- and long-term adverse health effects for the building occupants (Table 1).

The greatest hazard from exposure is for young children (Zummo and Karol, 1996). Their developing lungs, immune, and central nervous systems along with higher respiratory rates and increased physical activity put them at higher risk to experience adverse health effects from exposure to poor IAQ (Miller, 1993). Their body tissues are more easily damaged, and their bodies can potendally retain toxic substances for long periods of time (Noyes, 1987).

Although children are at high risk from exposure to sources of poor IAQ, ironically, there is a definite lack of regulations and guidelines with regard to IAQ in schools and day-care facilities. Under the Illinois ChildCare Act (IL Chapter 23 12,211), a safe environment (restrictions on lead-based paint, control of temperature, and an environment generally "clean" and free of physical hazards) is required for children in day care. However, an overall indoor environmental quality (IEQ), including IAQ, for day-care facilities is not required. In 1993, Representative Waxman (D-California), chair of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, stated that his subcommittee has heard testimony indicating that many schools and day-care centers harbor hidden environmental hazards. The Congressman recommends that Congress enact comprehensive legislation to improve IAQ in these indoor environments.

Good IAQ in schools and day cares is key to a proper learning environment for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1998), report that approximately one million children in the United States have enough lead in their blood to cause subtle brain damage. Miller, 1993, cites three studies showing an adverse effect from poor IAQ on the learning ability of children. Studies by Needleman, 1993 of the scholastic performance of children exposed to lead in early childhood demonstrated a reading disability six times that of the general school population. A Dallas Environmental Health Center study showed children's learning ability was negatively affected by exposure to fragrances and perfumes in the learning environment. Additionally, children with asthma and/or other IAQ-related allergies miss an estimated 130 million days of school each year. Greim and Turner, 1991 demonstrated that children and students' attention spans tend to be shorter when indoor ventilation and air quality are poor.

Poor IAQ can also affect adults working with children in indoor learning environments. Productivity rates decline due to discomfort, illness, and absenteeism, paralleling those of the children. Poor IAQ can create the possibility of facility closure and potential liability problems, which in turn can lead to the generation of negative publicity and income loss as well (U. …

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