START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x

This School Nurse Is A Champion For Clean Air

This School Nurse Is A Champion For Clean Air

Written by†Molly Rauch

An interview with school nurse, Linda Mendonca:

Environmental health is a very important aspect of school health that tends to get overlooked. As a school nurse I may be the only one in the school setting with a health background ensuring students are healthy and ready to learn.

Iíve been a school nurse for 19 years, and Iíve worked in all kinds of schools: elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. I was a Navy wife with four children, and I needed a job with a workable schedule for when my husband was out to sea. Thatís how I got involved in school nursing. Currently I work at an urban Jr./Sr. high school in Rhode Island.

Air Quality in Schools

The air inside a school can†determine the health and academic performance of the students. There are many factors in the school environment that influence the air quality. For example, is the ventilation system working properly? Is it maintained regularly? Are filters being changed? Another factor is the moisture level. At my school, there are a lot of leaks in the roof. Water comes down into the ceiling tiles, and if you look up, you can actually see the mold in the tiles. Schools need to have a plan to take care of problems like that.

You also have to look at the general cleanliness of the place. Is there a lot of dust? Are there cockroaches? Are there pesticides being applied to control for infestations? All of these things can trigger asthma. Many people are concerned about the chemicals in labs when they think about healthy school air. But I havenít had many problems with that. I think the overall environment is more important.

Over the years, as I continue to practice school nursing, I have encountered many factors in the school air that have impacted the students and staff. When there are problems with the ventilation system and airflow isnít good, that affects children and staff members with asthma. Another thing I have been seeing lately in my high school is the use of cologne sprays, such as Axe. Some kids think itís funny to spray it in the classroom Ė then Iíll get five kids in my office all at once because theyíve been breathing this spray. Itís now banned at my school, but kids sometimes sneak it in!

Asthma is a big problem in my school. About 20 percent of my students have asthma, with varying levels of severity. I am very passionate about decreasing asthma triggers by†using healthier cleaning products,†preventing mold and educating school staff and teachers.

School Bus Idling

One other factor to consider regarding air quality and the school environment is that of school bus idling. It is important that school buses are†not idling outside of school buildings. As they idle the fumes are able to penetrate into the building through open windows (in warmer weather) and through doors that are left open as large groups of students enter the building. When I worked in Illinois, in the morning when the students arrived at school, the front door would be open and fumes would come right into the school. The fumes traveled right down the hall into my office. It was so toxic. It really reduces air quality.

Some states, such as Rhode Island, have a no-idle law for diesel vehicles, particularly school buses. You may want to†check the laws in the state where you live. If your state has a law, do the school buses comply? Do the parents and caretakers in the carpool line comply? Whether or not there is a law, you can work toward voluntary limits on idling to improve the air around the school. If the air outside the school is polluted, it is likely that the air inside the school is also unhealthy.

What You Can Do

As a parent you can make a difference! You can explore the schoolís environment if you have concerns or children with chronic health issues.

One of the most important things I tell parents is to know your childís†asthma triggers. You need to advocate for your child. Make sure that the school environment is compatible with your childís health needs. I also tell my parents to make sure their child complies with the maintenance medications that can keep asthma from flaring up. And of course, make sure your child has his or her inhaler. So many times kids come into my office without the inhalers that they need to address their asthma symptoms.

The EPAís†Tools for Schools action kit is a great tool available to guide the school community through the voluntary process of reducing exposures to indoor environmental contaminants. By forming a team under the direction of school administration the work can begin. Through this process parents can get a better handle on their schoolís environment and make steps toward a healthier facility.

Florence Nightingale, Environmentalist

I became interested in environmental health through my work with asthmatic children. But then I realized that this is a fundamental nursing approach. Florence Nightingale was all about environmental health. Cleaning up the environment gets us back to the basics in terms of nursing. Thatís where good health starts.

Resources
American Lung Association

Healthy Schools Campaign

Linda Mendonca is a school nurse in Rhode Island. She is the President of the RI Certified School Nurse Teachers Association, Chair of the RI Lung Association Board, and sits on the School Workgroup Subcommittee of the RI Department of Healthís Asthma Coalition. She is also a member of the†National Association of School Nurses, a Moms Clean Air Force partner. All this and she is working toward her Masters Degree in Advanced Public Health Nursing at RUSH University in Chicago. Thank you Linda for your tireless advocacy on behalf of childrenís health!

Help put an end to air pollution.

 

Related Stories:

Julianne Moore Asks Washington for a Plan to Fight Climate Change

Can Climate Change Action and Evangelicals Coexist?

Vote for Health Care And Cut the Cost of Asthma

 

Read more: , ,

Photo credit: University of Salford

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

52 comments

+ add your own
7:01AM PDT on Mar 29, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:11AM PST on Nov 5, 2012

thank you

3:38AM PST on Nov 5, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

9:15AM PST on Nov 4, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

10:44AM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

Thanks

10:22AM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

I used to conduct air quality evaluations in indoor air environments. One trigger is carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations that can build up during occupancy. Ambient levels of CO2 are about 350 parts of CO2 per million part air by volume (ppm) but those values can reach and exceed 1000 ppm in poorly ventilated spaces like offices/school rooms. Lack of attention and drowsiness can occur at these levels. How much fresh air is being introduced via the central air system, if one exists? Problem is that many cannot open windows for dilution ventilation. What are the setbacks on the thermorstats? If vent system fans activate before/after occupancy, it helps to freshen the air.

Mold in buildings from water leaks can result in black mold behind wall board/ceiling structures. Molds grow in moisture. Mold spores can be sensitizing agents and leaks should be fixed and contamination remediated.

I encourage administrators/teachers/parents/pta's to be proactive regarding air quality in schools. There are plenty of resource materials available regarding indoor air quality so educate yourselves to the problem/solutions.
http://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/

6:45AM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

Thanks!!!

5:33AM PDT on Oct 31, 2012

thank you for sharing

4:22AM PDT on Oct 31, 2012

thank you

10:24PM PDT on Oct 30, 2012

She is doing a good job.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

absolutely incredible! I never even imagined that people who suffer these kind of injuries would ever…

I recently saw pictures of Mount Everest detailing the amount of rubbish and filth lying about the mountain…

meet our writers

Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.