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February 10, 2017

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Classrooms ‘need protection’ from pollution

A local legislator yesterday proposed making a new law to regulate indoor air conditions in classrooms at local schools — after the health of students was found to have been put in jeopardy.

The major pollutants to the air in classrooms at local elementary and middle schools include the tiny PM2.5 particles that are hazardous to health, as well as the carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and benzene, said Huang Chen, a lawmaker and a professor with the School of Environment and Architecture of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology.

PM2.5 levels inside classrooms can be three times higher than the national safety standard, according to Huang.

Moreover, carbon dioxide levels were even more likely than PM2.5 particles to exceed the safety level after several class sessions, she added. The CO2 density can reach 3,000 ppm (parts per million) after a one-hour class, doubling the 1,500 safety standard.

“That is the reason why students often feel drowsy after sitting inside the classroom for a long time,” Huang said.

The decorations, detergents and plastic materials in classrooms were also likely to make indoor areas polluted by formaldehyde, benzene and other volatile organic compounds, she added.

“It is urgent to regulate the indoor air conditions for classrooms,” Huang said.

The city’s management regulations for hygiene conditions at public venues failed to include classrooms, she said, while another related regulation only included indoor places with central air conditioning systems that most local schools had yet to install.

Many local public kindergartens, as well as elementary and middle schools had no air purifying or ventilation equipment. They also won’t accept donations from parents to install the equipment, said Wu Xiaotong, another local legislator.

Only some private schools had installed the facilities to improve air quality in classrooms, Wu added.

Huang said with the proposed legal standard, local schools would be compelled to install ventilation or air purifying equipment if their classrooms failed to meet air quality standards. She said it was necessary for most classrooms to install a ventilation system to reduce the CO2 density and air cleaners to remove fine particles.

Schools should also be required to test the volatile organic compounds inside the classrooms before each semester to ensure the safety of students, Huang said.


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