As a teacher, you can make small changes in your classroom that will improve not only your students’ health, but yours as well. The most successful technique for managing asthma and allergies in the schools is to avoid “triggers.” As a teacher, you can help reduce these triggers with a few easy steps.
Asthma triggers can be found lurking in books, the carpet, and behind posters. Check out the common hazards
that might be at your school.
Use the Classroom Check List
Healthy Air, Healthy Kids
- Make Changes to Your Classroom
has adapted the Classroom Checklist from the U.S. EPA’s Tools for Schools Action Kit. Download the checklist
and see how you can improve your IAQ!
Make Your Classroom “Custodian-Friendly”
Dust mites can be found on flooring, rugs, curtains, upholstered furniture and fuzzy toys. Reducing classroom clutter reduces dust mites and makes classrooms easier to vacuum and clean.
Control Animal Allergens
Warm blooded and furry animals have more allergens than other pets. If possible, keep pets outside
the classroom or caged and away from sensitive students and classroom air vents.
Inadequate fresh air can cause headaches and sleepiness. Air should be flowing constantly and vents unobstructed by classroom supplies. Maximize circulation by opening top and bottom windows. Teachers can test whether air is flowing by attaching a string to vents or using a pole with a string to test ceiling vents. Portable air cleaners vary greatly in effectiveness and some can emit harmful ozone.
Avoid Toxic Substances
Teachers should use district-approved cleaning supplies and encourage districts to use non-toxic, low-odor environmentally preferable products. Fumes from cleaning, laboratory and art supplies can be respiratory irritants and containers should be clearly labeled. Try to use non-toxic water-based dry erase white board pens that do not emit chemical odors.
Clean Up Moisture and Mold
The key to controlling mold is controlling the moisture that promotes its growth. Molds must be removed, not just “killed.” Hard surfaces and spills should be washed with detergent and water and then dried thoroughly. Monitor moisture from plants that have been over-watered, which can leak onto the carpet. Spills should be cleaned up immediately to prevent mold growth.
Eliminate Scented Products
Products including air fresheners, perfumes, and deodorizers can be allergy and asthma triggers. Teachers should speak to students and parent classroom volunteers about minimizing their use.
Control Insect Pests
Chronic exposure to pesticides has been shown to cause nervous system, kidney, and liver damage. Asthma and environmental advocates promote integrated pest management in schools that uses the least toxic chemicals in conjunction with non-chemical techniques to control pests. Teachers should cover any food used in the classroom tightly and store away from pests.
- Be an Advocate for Your Classroom
Report all unhealthy and uncomfortable conditions including leaks, vehicle exhaust fumes, chemical odors, stained ceiling tiles and problems with ventilation and temperature to building staff and site administrators. Your local association can provide assistance to help address problems and promote healthy indoor air quality practices and policies in the district.
The Environmental Protection Agency is dedicated to helping make the indoor air quality of your classroom as clean as possible.
First, learn more about the EPA’s Tools for Schools Kit. This program provides tools for both districts and teachers to improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers. It includes a simple classroom check-list and easy to implement interventions.
You can also contact EPA expert, Shelly Rosenblum, through Ask Shelly. He can answer your questions about cleaners, classroom pets, and other concerns you might have.