I recently posted two very long posts, on the influence of acoustics and greenery on learning, respectively, which once were slated to be part of a book that I just couldn’t scrounge the time together to complete. One of the chapters-to-be was on the importance of air quality in learning — and damn, how timely it would have been if I could have pulled that all together pre-COVID-19?!
Oh well. Instead, in the attempt to exorcise the never-to-be-completed book, as well as to close the chapter on this blog and move into more thinking and writing on language and literacy, I posted those two chapters and have been in the process of moving on.
While I most likely won’t ever write that book, I’d still like to highlight the critical importance of air quality in schools and learning, which has become all the more apparent during a time of a respiratory virus, but which is important at all times. And since I don’t have the time to write it all up in full, I’ll post links to the threads that I had laying about in a document instead, and let you, dear reader, complete the thoughts:
The Health Impacts of Air Pollution
- 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits
- Where a child lives and the air quality in that location can affect how a child’s brain develops
- Air pollution kills vast numbers across the globe each year: 5.5 million deaths worldwide, 800,000 premature deaths in Europe (with each life cut by an average of more than 2 years), while in the U.S., 200,000 are felled annually.
- Air pollution is linked to increased mental illness in children
- Care about social justice? Start caring about air pollution: The Racial Politics of Asthma
Roth and his team looked at students taking exams on different days – and also measured how much pollution was in the air on those given days. All other variables remained the same: The exams were taken by students of similar levels of education, in the same place, but over multiple days.
He found that the variation in average results were staggeringly different. The most polluted days correlated with the worst test scores. On days where the air quality was cleanest, students performed better.
To determine the long-term effects, Roth followed up to see what impact this had eight to 10 years later. Those who performed worst on the most polluted days were more likely to end up in a lower-ranked university and were also earning less, because the exam in question was so important for future education.“How air pollution is doing more than killing us” by Melissa Hogenboom in BBC Future
The Impact of Indoor Air Quality on Learning
- EPA paper on air quality and student performance
- As Pollen Counts Rise, Test Scores Fall
- More Fresh Air in Classrooms Means Fewer Absences
- Healthier air quality (in the form of low CO2 levels) can double cognitive scores
- In a study of the effect of indoor air quality on chess tournament decision-making, “we find that an increase in fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) of ten micrograms per cubic meter (10 µg/m3), about three quarters of a standard deviation in the sample, leads to a 2.1 percentage point increase in the probability of making a meaningful error.”
- Indoor air quality in inner-city schools and its associations with building characteristics and environmental factors
When the level of fresh air in the classrooms was increased, the students performed up to seven per cent better than when they were working on the tests in their usual indoor climates. The study also revealed that the students did not themselves notice that they were not quite as astute in the poorer climate.“Bad air quality makes children perform worse in schools” by Jonas Salomonsen in ScienceNordic
- Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits
- A long and really important investigation on the health impacts of air pollution on schools situated near busy roads by The Center for Public Integrity that has not gotten the attention it deserves. Read the entire thing. Read it again. And then reflect on the following:
Southern California’s air agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, earmarked settlements from polluting companies and other funds to cover the cost of such filtration at about 80 schools near freeways or other pollution sources. Nothing’s preventing other states from following the same model.
“The technology is well established, the installation is straightforward and the maintenance is simple,” said district spokesman Sam Atwood, who doesn’t recall officials from other states getting in touch to learn from his agency’s experience.“The Invisible Hazard Afflicting Thousands of Schools” by Jamie Smith Hopkins for The Center for Public Integrity