Environment plays a significant role in the rising rates of asthma. The environmental assessment component of the AFSZ project aims to help schools manage asthma triggers in the school setting by recognizing problems and suggesting remediation strategies.
The walk-around is conducted by a small group of people who are interested in the health and safety of the school environment. The walk-around team can be any size but should include members of any existing health and/or safety school committee, such as the Asthma Support Team, School Leadership Team, Wellness, or Nutrition and Exercise, who are likely to be motivated to work for environmental improvement.
The Walk-Around Route
Guided by teacher checklists and based on visual assessment, the walk-around team checks for indoor problem areas. Besides visiting a representative sample of classrooms, the walk-around route should cover other areas occupied by children. Investigate all areas of the school zone, looking for such things as habitual inadequate sanitation, damage to or graffiti on no-smoking and no-idling signs, excessive clutter, water stains,
cleanliness of carpets, etc. Expect the tour to last an hour to 90 minutes.
The indoor walk-through includes all general-use areas and small sample set of classrooms and bathrooms. Common indoor problem areas involve clutter, food drppings and lackof air circulation. Outdoors, idling vehicles produce exhaust, and exhaust fumes are harmful to human health and environment. Vehicles that run on diesel fuel contribute a disproportionate amount of air pollution and toxic risk. School buses are notorious diesel polluters whose emissions worsen asthma. With prolonged exposure, diesel fumes may cause asthma and can set-up a propensity for asthma in the unborn.
• Preliminary meeting with the principal
• Meeting with school staff about the IAQ/asthma link; distribution of teacher checklists;
• Collection and analysis of site information through teacher checklists;
• Building walkthrough with team that includes (at minimum) custodian and
PTA/PA and/or administrative representative
• Baseline evaluation and identification of indoor sources of pollutants/triggers
• Follow-up discussion with team members, addressing remediation strategies
• Presentation of findings and recommendations to admin and teaching staff.
Some Common Problems
• Clutter/Dust/Evidence of pests
• Use of scented products, e.g., air fresheners
• Soft materials/Rugs
• Impeded air circulation
Important School Zone Laws
• Idling by any vehicle for > 1 minute near NYC schools is prohibited, except when the temperature is < 40 degrees F, or when an official vehicle is actively responding to an emergency. (NYC Administrative Code 24-163 - 1971)
• Idling by school buses is prohibited on school grounds or next to a school. (NYS Education Law 3637 - 2007)
• Tobacco product use is prohibited in school buildings, office buildings, structures, grounds, and facilities, or in any vehicle owned, operated, or leased by the NYC DOE and used to transport students or DOE personnel. (NYC Smoke-free Air Act C-810 - 2002)