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Environmental > Environmental Assessment

Environment plays a significant role in the rising rates of asthma. Airborne pollution can exacerbate symptoms, leading to difficulty in breathing, activity limitation, missed school and work, increased use of medication, visits to doctors’ offices, trips to emergency rooms, admissions to the hospital, and tremendous financial and social costs. The AFSZ conducts two kinds of environmental assessment: school walk-arounds that look at health and safety issues inside and outside schools, and ambient air sampling that measures air quality, especially tailpipe emission levels, near schools.

School Walk-Arounds
The environmental assessment component of the AFSZ project aims to help schools manage asthma triggers in the school setting by recognizing problems and possible remediation strategies. The Walk-Around includes all general-use areas and small sample set of classrooms and bathrooms. The steps of this environmental assessment project generally include:

  • Preliminary meeting with principal
  • Meeting with school staff for ideas about environmental problem;
  • Collection and analysis of site information through teacher checklists;
  • Building walk-around with walk-around team
  • Baseline evaluation and identification of indoor sources of pollutants/asthma triggers
  • Follow-up with the team members, addressing remediation strategies
  • Presentation of findings and recommendations to admin and teaching staff

Guided by teacher checklists and based on visual assessment, a walk-around team checks for indoor problem areas. Most common are: evidence of pests; clutter and dust; use of scented products, e.g., air fresheners; use of soft materials and rugs; impeded air circulation.

Ambient Air Sampling
An air quality study requires careful planning, sophisticated equipment, and, generally, an extended period of time. The AFSZ has measured air quality at 8 elementary schools in three boroughs, and ten school and community sites distributed thoughout Manhattan's East Village and Lower East Side. Between 2006 and 2008, with funding from the CMAQ program and NYC DOT, the AFSZ measured particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon at three sites, which included 8 schools, in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

In a ten-site study with CUNY Hunter College (Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences), with funding from CB3 (MN) and Con Edison, AFSZ used real-time instruments to measure PM2.5 and carbon levels at one-minute intervals for 4-5 weeks in each season of this past year. Gravimetric instruments also collected particulate matter on pre-weighed filters.

AFSZ AQ Studies
2006-2008 - In partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation, AFSZ measured PM2.5 and elemental carbon at three sites, which included 8 schools, in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. At each site one month of ambient air data collection preceded and followed a year of AFSZ intervention activities.

2008-2009 - With funding from the Manhattan Community Board 3 and Con Edison, AFSZ measured PM2.5, elemental carbon levels and ozone at ten sites in downtown Manhattan (CB3) over four seasons, looking at spatial distribution of “hot spots”, times when pollutant concentration levels are highest, and chemical composition of those pollutants.

AQ Study Publication
Associations of PM2.5 and black carbon concentrations with traffic, idling, background pollution, and meteorology during school dismissals
J. Richmond-Bryant, C. Saganich, L. Bukiewicz, R. Kalin
Science of the Total Environment, 407 (2009) 3357–3364 (Journal homepage:









Follow along on the YouTube Walk-Around Video. (9 min.)

• Classroom
• Cafeteria
• Gymnasium
• Bathrooms
• Outdoors

Member schools can find the Walk-Around Checklist and Solutions Guide in the online School Resource Center.