The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released voluntary guidelines and set up a Web site, www.epa.gov/iaq/schools, to help schools become more aware of daily cleaning and maintenance practices that could harm air quality in schools. Below is a partial list of the recommendations. The full list of guidelines is available at the Web site.
Maintenance supplies: After checking with suppliers to find the safest products, custodians should read labels and follow precautions for using and storing chemicals. All products should be stored in sealable and clearly labeled containers, and schools should have supplies and a plan to handle spills.
Dust control: Schools should purchase and use barrier floor mats for all entrances, and should use high-efficiency vacuum-cleaner bags. Custodians should also vacuum air vents and the surrounding surfaces regularly to remove dust.
Moisture: Custodians should inspect buildings regularly and check humidity levels in classrooms. They should look for moldy odors; stains and discoloration in the walls, ceiling, or floors; and signs of water damage near windows, pipes, or the roof. If moisture and condensation are noted, the maintenance crew should take measures such as adding insulation around pipes, improving air circulation, or using a dehumidifier.
Combustion appliances: Staff members should make sure that there are no odors, and ensure that flue components do not have leaks, deterioration, or buildup of soot.
Pest control: Schools should not use pesticides indiscriminately, and should not use them near the ventilation-system intakes outdoors.
SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week as Environmental Guidelines