(Updated: February 2004)
Addressing indoor air quality (IAQ) and environmental health and safety issues in schools are of paramount importance to local and state public health, environmental regulatory and school officials in Massachusetts. Among the most serious health impacts that relate to many of these problems is the exacerbation of pediatric asthma and allergies. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the rates of pediatric asthma have increased by more than 70% nationally between 1984 - 94. A recent statewide survey also demonstrated that rates of pediatric asthma were significantly higher in schools with reported IAQ problems versus those that did not have IAQ problems (MDPH, 1999). In addition, the economic consequences of failing to address many of these issues must also be considered at both the state and local levels.
The Healthy Schools Council (HSC) was established in 2001. The council is made up of representatives from several state agencies. They include: the Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Occupational Safety, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Office of Technical Assistance, the Attorney General's Office, the State Fire Marshall's Office and the Board of Higher Education.
This inter-agency council identified a working group of key staff from agencies involved with environmental health and safety issues in schools, who were tasked with identifying a list of the most important issues for schools to address in terms of environmental health and safety. Further, the working group was asked to develop a draft resource booklet for the council's review which would ultimately be distributed statewide by the Department of Education (DOE) and others.
The primary indoor environmental health and safety issues identified by the HSC sub-committee were:
- Renovations in buildings while occupied (or adjacent to occupied areas)
- Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems maintenance (including vehicle exhaust entrainment issues)
- Furnace/Boiler Maintenance and Emergency Generators
- Building envelope issues
- Chemical Management (storage/use practices)
- Drinking water (Lead and Other Issues)
- Asbestos Management plans
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans
- Underground Storage Tanks
- Septic systems/sanitary sewers
- Miscellaneous maintenance/custodial issues
The following three chapters in the document contain information and resources to assist Massachusetts' school systems in identifying and remedying indoor environment health and safety problems. Chapter 1 contains a checklist for schools to use to identify important environmental health and safety issues that may be present in a given school building. By maintaining the checklist for each issue, school personnel will be able to determine if there are any specific areas that may warrant attention. Chapter 2 contains " References at a Glance", which provides not only the specific regulations for each issue but also any industry standards/guidelines that are available. This section also provides a quick resource guide for additional contact information/assistance. Finally, Chapter 3 provides a list of websites and other resources available for schools to obtain further guidance.