Jay Perantoni's Assessment of Negative Health Outcomes Associated with Deferred School Maintenance
Within our highly regulated society, it is unfathomable that federal health standards have never been established to define acceptable air quality in American schools.
The consequences of compromised design and neglected building systems leading to poor air quality of have openly played out for the past half century. Almost forgotten now, the Oil Embargo dating from the mid-1970s led to dramatic fuel spikes forcing citizens and public entities to innovate in reducing fuel consumption. Popular initiatives included efforts to reset thermostats, reductions in outside airflow into buildings and cost saving measures to curtail maintenance at large air handlers and HVAC equipment. While those efforts achieved some measure of short term success, they had the unanticipated consequences leading to sick building syndrome, Legionnaire's disease and a dramatic rise in asthma among our youth.
Unfortunately, the current economic recession has led to a new influx of cost saving measures dooming many to repeat history by deferring critical building maintenance activities that have health consequences such as promptly repairing roof leaks, replacing wet ceiling tiles, damp drywall surfaces or wet carpets. Meanwhile cleaning regimes are being staged less frequently allowing dust, dirt and other allergens to accumulate within schools.
This reduction in building care via deferred maintenance is contributing to an unabated rise in respiratory diseases among students and teachers. A century ago students were at greatest risk to bacteriological infections and communicable diseases ahead of the reach of antibiotics and immunizations. Today, asthma is identified as the number one chronic illness affecting children and keeping them out of school with elevated absenteeism rates having a direct consequence on student performance.
Several published studies estimate more than one third of all US schools suffer from mold, mildew, dust and other indoor air pollutants which adversely affect the health of building users. Allergies involving reactions to mold or dust prove just as debilitating as asthma particularly when the prescribed antihistamines, nasal sprays and respiratory medications disrupt students' ability to concentrate, hampering the learning process. Estimates show one in three students are sufficiently susceptible to mold and dust exposure that trigger allergic reactions such as coughing, headaches, fatigue, itchy eyes, runny noses, slowed thinking and memory problems.
Once exposed to trigger conditions such as accumulated dust, indoor pathogens or mold spores emerging from wet building materials, students become increasingly sensitized leading to future allergic reactions and a spiraling cycle requiring greater medical intervention while manifesting more severe symptoms.
According to SSP Principal Jay F. Perantoni, AIA ... "Many causes of indoor air problems trace their roots to improper water management in building systems as well as deferred building maintenance. The inability to quickly solve building leak conditions leads directly to visible and concealed mold colonies affecting indoor air quality. Maintenance concerns that have student health consequences and disrupt the learning process are best reviewed from a proactive stance to safeguard learning environments."
For a greater assessment of student health risks, please click on the attached link to CNN Health's coverage of Toxic America; "Are Schools Making Kids Sick" produced by Dr. David Martin.
Website News Posted: 2/3/2012