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Education suffering from bad room air in classes

By Rachael Williams

A recent investigation of 1,000 Austrian classrooms has revealed that the air is too dry, too warm and laden with CO2.

The investigation was carried out by Environmental Hygiene Expert Hans-Peter Hutter and his team at the Medical University of Vienna.

Hutter commented on the negative effect of such a classroom environment, stating that poor air quality decreased the motivation of both teachers and students.

Hutter noted that class performance suffered in classrooms where the air contained higher levels of CO2. He also observed demotivation and tiredness during the lessons and in some cases participants developed headaches.

As part of an Austria-wide initiative by the Ministry of Education and the organisation MeineRaumluft.at, which works with many businesses to improve air quality in indoor spaces, the classrooms were equipped with guages to measure CO2 levels, room temperature and humidity for one week. The readings were then recorded by the students.

The results showed that in over half of the classrooms (54.4 per cent) the recommended level of one part of CO2 to every million parts of air (1000ppm) was exceeded.

After midday the levels remained constantly bad unless the room was aired. It was recommended to teachers and students that a complete air exchange should take place hourly in all rooms, but in 94 per cent of classes this was not managed and air exchanges were not achieved within two hours.

The findings have caused great concern and the Ministry of Education and MeineRaumluft.at who have launched a competition to develop students' ideas for improving the situation. The competition  is called "Luftsprung 2013" ("Air hop 2013") and the top 12 entries will secure air guages for their classrooms.

Representative of MeineRaumluft.at and Air Quality Expert Thomas Schlachte said: "Through this competition the children will become more aware of their own health and think about solving problems. Their creativity is at the forefront of the competition and our aim is to make children see that health awareness can also be fun."

In addition to the schools experiment, the organisation also placed gauges in over 1,000 offices, apartments, hotel, restaurants and even public buildings. In these cases, one in five offices had air with a moisture content of less than 30 per cent, which is too dry. A quarter of the hotels, restaurants and apartments were over 22 degrees and classed as overheated and a third of hotels, restaurants and hotels had high levels of CO2. Dust pollution was also a problem in hotels.

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