Indoor air quality, ventilation and health symptoms in schools: an analysis of existing information

Indoor Air. 2003 Mar;13(1):53-64. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0668.2003.00153.x.


We reviewed the literature on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), ventilation, and building-related health problems in schools and identified commonly reported building-related health symptoms involving schools until 1999. We collected existing data on ventilation rates, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and symptom-relevant indoor air contaminants, and evaluated information on causal relationships between pollutant exposures and health symptoms. Reported ventilation and CO2 data strongly indicate that ventilation is inadequate in many classrooms, possibly leading to health symptoms. Adequate ventilation should be a major focus of design or remediation efforts. Total volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde (HCHO) and microbiological contaminants are reported. Low HCHO concentrations were unlikely to cause acute irritant symptoms (<0.05 ppm), but possibly increased risks for allergen sensitivities, chronic irritation, and cancer. Reported microbiological contaminants included allergens in deposited dust, fungi, and bacteria. Levels of specific allergens were sufficient to cause symptoms in allergic occupants. Measurements of airborne bacteria and airborne and surface fungal spores were reported in schoolrooms. Asthma and 'sick building syndrome' symptoms are commonly reported. The few studies investigating causal relationships between health symptoms and exposures to specific pollutants suggest that such symptoms in schools are related to exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), molds and microbial VOCs, and allergens.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Allergens
  • Bacteria
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Child
  • Fungi
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Quality Control
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Schools*
  • Spores
  • Ventilation*


  • Allergens
  • Carbon Dioxide