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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2013;76(6):400-8. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2013.765372.

Winter ventilation rates at primary schools: comparison between Portugal and Finland.

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  • 1URSN, IST/ITN, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa Polo de Loures-Campus Tecnológico e Nuclear, Sacavém, Portugal.


This study focused on examination of ventilation rates in classrooms with two different types of ventilation systems: natural and mechanical. Carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements were conducted in primary schools of Portugal characterized by natural ventilation and compared to Finland where mechanical ventilation is the norm. The winter period was selected since this season exerts a great influence in naturally ventilated classrooms, where opening of windows and doors occurs due to outdoor atmospheric conditions. The ventilation rates were calculated by monitoring CO2 concentrations generated by the occupants (used as a tracer gas) and application of the buildup phase method. A comparison between both countries' results was conducted with respect to ventilation rates and how these levels corresponded to national regulatory standards. Finnish primary schools (n = 2) registered a mean ventilation rate of 13.3 L/s per person, which is higher than the recommended ventilation standards. However, the Finnish classroom that presented the lowest ventilation rate (7.2 L/s per person) displayed short-term CO2 levels above 1200 ppm, which is the threshold limit value (TLV) recommended by national guidelines. The Portuguese classrooms (n = 2) showed low ventilation rates with mean values of 2.4 L/s per person, which is markedly lower than the minimum recommended value of 7 L/s per person as defined by ASHRAE and 20% less than the REHVA minimum of 3 L/s per person. Carbon dioxide levels of 1000 ppm, close to the TLV of 1200 ppm, were also reached in both Portuguese classrooms studied. The situation in Portugal indicates a potentially serious indoor air quality problem and strengthens the need for intervention to improve ventilation rates in naturally ventilated classrooms.

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