VOCs- Could Classrooms Be Making Children Ill? | Sundeala

VOCs- Could Classrooms Be Making Children Ill?

In a class of thirty children, it is a rarity if there isn’t at least one child with a runny nose. We know that hand washing and personal hygiene aren’t at the top of most children’s agendas, but perhaps there is another cause to runny noses, coughs and colds.

VOCs or volatile organic compounds are emitted gasses from certain solids or liquids. The presence and concentration of VOCs is much higher indoors than outdoors and can be found in hundreds of everyday household products, such as disinfectants, aerosol sprays and air fresheners.
VOCs can be found in building materials and furnishings used to construct homes, offices and schools. Even equipment used in schools such as, craft materials, adhesives and permeant markers contain traces of volatile organic compounds which could be detrimental to the health of staff and students in schools. Particularly prevalent symptoms associated with VOCs are: headaches, nausea, dizziness, nose and throat discomfort and itching eyes.
With upholstery and furnishings in schools containing irritants such as VOCs, schools may face higher student and staff absences which will subsequently lead to disruptions in learning, along with potential long term negative health connotations for both teachers and young people.
The government, in accordance to volatile organic compounds, enforce that it is an offense to exceed the legislated levels of VOC’s in materials used to create paints, varnishes and refinishing. The legislations means that concentration of these compounds allowed in association to decorative, functional and protective purposes can be monitored. International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 11890-2:2006 (revised in 2013) are the series of the standards related to these types of products, with 0.30 – 7.99% VOC classed as ‘low content’ which is the regulated amount allowed in the EU. Products that are considered as ‘VOC free’ have a maximum trace of 0.01%. Air Quality Sciences found there is a growing body of evidence in conjunction with teacher productivity and student learning with air quality as well as health; the World Health Organisation recommend keeping exposure to below 120µg/m3 (0.10 parts per million), although others recommend that level to be lower than 0.027ppm. This article written by the Green Guard discusses further information on indoor air quality and how to reform and review your own school, click here to read on.
Is it therefore extremely important, when building or refurbishing all learning spaces to consider how best to reduce the levels of VOCs present. Although we cannot fully escape VOC’s as they are in the air we breathe, both indoors and out, there are ways in which we can minimalise exposure in indoor environments; such as keeping the air well ventilated and filtered with plants, along with using materials which do not hold any VOC properties or formaldehydes.
When deciding upon which noticeboards to fit in a newly built or refurbished school, know that Sundeala products contain no VOCs and are made from 100% recycled paper. For the Colourboards, a natural pigmentation is added to the manufacturing process to create beautiful, bright and beneficial notice boards that are a great addition to any school or academic learning centre. As well as being environmentally friendly from a material aspect, Sundeala noticeboards are non-detrimental to school IAQ, – in comparison to a standard noticeboard, there are no VOCs or formaldehydes. There is also the option of a fire retardant version standard which complies with BS EN 13823:2002 & BS EN 11925-2 under criteria for Class B.