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Indoor Air. 2006 Dec;16(6):465-8.

A preliminary study on the association between ventilation rates in classrooms and student performance.

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Indoor Air Program, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104, USA.


Poor conditions leading to substandard indoor air quality (IAQ) in classrooms have been frequently cited in the literature over the past two decades. However, there is limited data linking poor IAQ in the classrooms to student performance. Whereas, it is assumed that poor IAQ results in reduced attendance and learning potential, and subsequent poor student performance, validating this hypothesis presents a challenge in today's school environment. This study explores the association between student performance on standardized aptitude tests that are administered to students on a yearly basis, to classroom carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, which provide a surrogate of ventilation being provided to each room. Data on classroom CO2 concentrations (over a 4-5 h time span within a typical school day) were recorded in fifth grade classrooms in 54 elementary schools within a school district in the USA. Results from this preliminary study yield a significant (P < 0.10) association between classroom-level ventilation rate and test results in math. They also indicate that non-linear effects may need to be considered for better representation of the association. A larger sample size is required in order to draw more definitive conclusions. Practical Implications Future studies could focus on (1) gathering more evidence on the possible association between classroom ventilation rates and students' academic performance; (2) the linear/non-linear nature of the association; and (3) whether it is possible to detect 'no observed adverse effect level' for adequate ventilation with respect to academic performance in schools. All of this information could be used to improve guidance and take regulatory actions to ensure adequate ventilation in schools. The high prevalence of low ventilation rates, combined with the growing evidence of the positive impact that sufficient ventilation has on human performance, suggests an opportunity for improving design and management of school facilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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