Schools with poor ventilation, mold, and moisture problems have been linked to greater numbers of children reporting asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. In addition, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde—found in construction materials, furnishings, and cleaning products—are known respiratory irritants and often found in schools.
When schools have poor indoor air quality, not only health but also school performance suffers. Studies have shown that poor air quality can lessen children's ability to concentrate, lead to school absences, and lower their academic performance. This is particularly a concern since school performance influences children's life trajectories, including the types of jobs they will be able to secure and their future earning potential.
Children in low-income communities of color are particularly impacted by poor indoor air quality at school. Many schools in low-income neighborhoods are old and were built using materials that may not pass current safety requirements. Some schools in these communities must house students in portable classrooms, with high levels of VOCs and poor ventilation. Schools have also been built on or near contaminated sites, or close to freeways—which also can result in poor school air quality.