National Healthy Schools Day brings awareness to indoor school health issues

Today, we celebrate the 11th National Healthy Schools Day in order to bring attention to the correlation between healthy indoor school environments and student health and academic success. Nearly 55 million children and 7 million adults in the United States (20% of the population and 98% of all children) spend their days inside school buildings. Children have no control of their environment but are suffering the consequences of attending unhealthy schools.  The Healthy Schools Network organized National Healthy Schools Day in collaboration with the U.S. EPA to encourage schools to follow the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality standards and improve school building health and consequently student health.

There are roughly 130,000 public and private schools in the U.S. The EPA estimates that nearly half of these schools have indoor air quality problems. Leaky roofs, insufficient cleaning, chemically harsh cleaning products, problems with air conditioning, heating, and ventilation, and maintenance issues can all lead to a host of health issues in students and faculty, such as asthma and allergies.  These unhealthy school environments can affect student performance, concentration, and attendance. Health issues such as asthma can increase absenteeism, which interferes with learning.  Our nation’s children deserve a healthy school environment where they can learn without jeopardizing their health and academic career.

Earth Day Network’s Green Schools Campaign strives to improve the quality of school environments all over America.  It has been shown that green schools have many benefits, including improved student test scores, higher teacher and student retention, impressive improvements in children’s health, and notable energy cost savings. Green schools can greatly reduce student sick days. More time in the classroom equates to more learning and better test scores.

How expensive is a green school to build? On average, green schools cost less than 2% more to build than traditional schools, but the payback occurs in only a few years with green schools using 30% less energy and water than traditional schools.  We can also create healthier environments in our existing schools by encouraging schools to use environmentally-friendly cleaning products, opening windows when possible, fixing leaks as soon as they occur, and eliminating stacks of paper and books that can hold in asthma-aggravating dust. Get involved in National Healthy Schools Day; visit Earth Day Network’s Green Schools Leadership Center for a student action plan and to learn more.