Safe Air Quality

Indoor and outdoor air pollution negatively impact human health and the environment.

Air pollution is an indoor and outdoor issue. Outdoor air pollution can come from a variety of sources including vehicle emissions, manufacturing and power generation, chemical production, and wildfires. Outdoor pollutants can also impact the air quality of our indoor spaces in addition to fumes from building materials and furnishings, cleaners, high humidity, and fuel-burning appliances.

Breathing in these pollutants negatively impacts human health, whether you are indoors or outdoors. Immediate effects of air pollution can include coughing, eye irritation, headaches, asthma attacks, and long-term effects including respiratory and heart diseases, and cancer. In schools, exposure to these pollutants can impact the attendance, comfort, and performance of students, teachers, and staff.

Air pollution doesn’t just impact the air we breathe, it can also impact local water quality. Airborne pollution particles can fall onto land and water with precipitation or as dry particles. Once in waterways, these pollutants can fuel algae blooms which lead to dead zones and enter the food chain which can eventually impact people that consume fish.

Connecting to Issue Investigation

Investigations into human health or water quality can lead to solutions focused on safe air quality. Students investigating water quality may lead to them discovering that water contaminants first started as air pollution. Human health investigations can lead students to understand the environmental issues that impact our health, like air pollution, and an action on safe air quality can also bring in environmental justice topics.

For those working towards green school awards, this action can reduce a school’s environmental impact in addition to improving the health and wellness of students and staff by removing and restricting pollutants inside and outside the school.

Facilitating Student Action

Students should continue to have opportunities to share ideas and opinions throughout the process of identifying, planning, and implementing action. Listed here are just a few ways students can stay engaged while working on this solution—but there are many more! The complexity of each activity/task can be adjusted for each grade level.

  • Create - students can plant and/or protect trees in their community to help clean the air.

  • Educate - students can research the health benefits of safe air quality and dangers of air pollution and share their findings with the school administration and the broader school community. Students can also increase awareness of local air quality by sharing daily reports.

  • Advocate - students can advocate for improving indoor and outdoor air quality around the school. Students can get parents involved by requesting an “Idle-Free Zone” during school pick-up and drop-off or involve the broader community if they identify a common pollution source impacting the community.

  • Monitor - students of any age can get involved in monitoring indoor and outdoor air quality. Air quality monitoring can include simple or complex equipment or students can review data from Air Now.

  • Share and Celebrate - students can celebrate their work by sharing their results and/or concerns with the broader school community by writing articles, press releases or inviting reporters from the school paper and local news agencies.

Safe Air Quality Resources