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Indoor Air in Primary Schools 2009

People tend to spend the major part of the day "indoors". Most often we are at home, at the office, at school, at the gym, at the restaurant, at the shops, etc. Each of these buildings is characterized by an air composition, which is typical and unique for that environment, for that indoor design, for those indoor activities and for that architectural style. This is why, at each moment of the day we expose ourselves to a different kind of air composition.

Nevertheless, the quality of the air that we breathe is often estimated by measurements of the ambient air quality.

Research has pointed out that a poor indoor air quality can influence the health of people present in that building; children are most susceptible. Flemish children spend on average 23% of the day at school, of which 17% inside a classroom.

For this reason the project A study on the quality of the indoor air in schools; the influence of the outdoor air, ventilation and classroom decoration, called biba, has been set up. This study is being carried out by VITO, under the authority of the Environment and Health Division of the Environment, Nature and Energy Department and the Flemish Agency for Health and Care.

Based on the location and the age of the school buildings, 30 primary schools are selected in an area which is spread over all Flemish provinces. Typical concentration levels and adverse health effects of air pollutants present in ambient air are well established. Whether these pollutants are present in classroom indoor air and if they do so, at which level they occur, is studied in this proposal. The sampling campaign in indoor and outdoor air will take place in parallel.

The biba project organizes the measurement of these air pollutants in 90 classrooms. This will allow an evaluation of the current levels inside classrooms to indoor air quality guidelines. The measured indoor air pollutants include fine dust, benzene, toluene, xylenes, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Special attention is paid to the classroom ventilation. For this reason the ventilation of all studies rooms is measured and schools participating the ventilation sensitisation project Lekker Fris. are integrated in the set of studied schools.

Air monitoring is not possible using one simple sampling technique. Therefore we will use several different specific sampling techniques. Depending on the place where the samples will be collected (indoor or outdoor environment), a suitable monitoring system will be installed. Certain systems require a special protective shelter for outdoor monitoring.

This research aims at the determination of the indoor air quality of a typical Flemish classroom at primary school. The conclusion of this study will allow the formulation of measures for environmental policy.

The sampling campaign will start on November the 1st 2008 and stop on March the 31st 2009.

Download the summary of the biba project.