Schools’ IAQ Efforts Tackle Old, New Foes

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School districts have made tremendous strides to improve their indoor air quality (IAQ). The challenges continue, however, as facility managers struggle against the continued discovery of building materials that can endanger the health of students and teachers, as well as the arrival of new airborne hazards. Two recent news items demonstrate the something-old-something-new nature of IAQ.

Asbestos, the building material used for decades throughout institutional and commercial facilities before being banned in 1977, falls into the category of something old. Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., recently sent an email to students and faculty regarding asbestos on campus, according to the Sonoma State Star.

At least 12 buildings on campus are “locations with asbestos-containing construction materials,” according to the email. Asbestos has been detected in areas that include fire door insulation, floor tiles, transite panels, and thermal system insulation, the press release said. Asbestos poses a health hazard if its particles or fibers become airborne and are ingested. 

 As for the new threat, schools now must deal with the airborne health hazards posed by vaping. One South Carolina district, Florence One Schools, recently added vaping detectors at three high school campuses, according to WSPA.

“We really ran into an issue where every time we would go into a bathroom we would notice there would be a little cloud of smoke, or there would be something going on,” says Matt Dowdell, West Florence High School principal. District security says the devices were tested at West Florence for one week, were a huge success and were added to the other two high schools.

12 detectors are strategically placed in each high school. Doug Nunnally, director of security and school safety, says the sensors can detect chemicals that include tobacco from cigarettes and vape pens, THC, ammonia, and chlorine. When a student vapes near a detector, a silent alarm is sent to the school resource officer, providing the location and substance of the chemical. Halos paired with security cameras make it easy to track a person down.