New Resource For Improving School IEQ In Your State

August 21, 2013

Many states now require schools to adopt policies around Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), covering issues such as Indoor Air Quality, green cleaning, carbon monoxide and other potential environmental risks and hazards. At Healthy Schools Campaign, we have been working on green school state policy and green cleaning policy for years. Along the way, in building our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, we have met and consulted with expert voices also making an impact in this area. One of those groups has been the Environmental Law Institute.

The new school year is right around the corner, and school health advocates across the country are working hard to ensure all students have a healthy school environment in which to learn and grow. With more than 55 million children spending a great amount of time in K-12 schools every year, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our school facilities are managed with the health of students and staff in mind.

Many states now require schools to adopt policies around Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), covering issues such as Indoor Air Quality, green cleaning, carbon monoxide and other potential environmental risks and hazards. At Healthy Schools Campaign, we have been working on green school state policy and green cleaning policy for years. Along the way, in building our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, we have met and consulted with expert voices also making an impact in this area. One of those groups has been the Environmental Law Institute.

Over the summer, our friends at the Environmental Law Institute launched Topics in School Environmental Health, a fantastic new resource for public officials, school health advocates and others interested in strengthening state policies to create healthy school environments that support learning and academic achievement. Topics in School Environmental health is a series of short, user-friendly information guides available for free download, which cover these state policies in a number of areas important to school environmental health.

“The idea is really just to see the different strategies that states have adopted in these areas,” says Tobie Bernstein, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute. “People can see, ‘What has my state done? What have other states done?’ People might get ideas about different policy actions that they can take.”

The guide focuses primarily on seven environmental health issues relating to Indoor Environmental Quality: mold, radon, carbon monoxide, vehicle idling, green cleaning, IAQ during renovations and IAQ management programs. Each guide looks at how state laws and regulations have addressed these issues, with some background and a description of the current policies. Once advocates see what policies exist in their own states, they can be in a better position to help apply those policies and prioritize issues for advocating new policy.

“Each of these issues are related to important environmental exposures or practices to reduce environmental exposures,” Bernstein says. “Many of them are part of a policy to approach indoor asthma triggers. We wanted to identify issues that have been important and also the subject of state policies.”

Some of the findings in the Topics in School Environmental Health guide were surprising to Bernstein. For example, more than half of all U.S. states have adopted policies restricting the idling of school buses and other vehicles on school grounds. One of the most jarring findings is that only three states — Connecticut, Maryland and West Virginia — have policies requiring carbon monoxide alarms in schools. In the latter two states, this only applies to new and remodeled schools.

Bernstein says no solution is one-size-fits-all, and what works in one state may not be as effective in another. But she hopes these materials will serve as a good background on each of these issues, make readers aware of the issues relating to school environmental health and direct school health advocates to more information.

For even more information on bringing a green cleaning program to your school or green school state policy, and information about upcoming green cleaning webinars, resources and more, please visit our Green Clean Schools page.