5 Ways to Clean Up the Air at School


by Katy Farber, Moms Clean Air Force

School is in full swing now.  I have been pretending that it isn’t really happening because I know, as a teacher, once I go back, I hit the ground running, and don’t look up until November!

In my many roles as a teacher, blogger, and clean air activist, I offer some tips for how to give your child the cleanest and healthiest air possible in school. Indoor air quality can be very poor in schools due to lack of ventilation and because many are old structures. And as we know, schools can be sited in industrial areas with extensive air pollution. What can concerned parents do?

5 Ways To Clean Up The Air At Your Child’s School

1. Investigate:  Begin checking out what kind of cleaners are used in your child’s classroom. If they are conventional industrial cleaners, they likely contain harmful chemicals that could be damaging to your child’s lungs, especially if they are already sensitive. Often, schools use these because they don’t know they are harmful. Their plan is to kill nasty viruses that pop up in schools.

2. Exchange Cleaners: If your child’s school is using toxic cleaners, check in with their teacher. If possible, bring in a few non-toxic cleaners such as those made by Seventh Generation. Offer to replace what the teacher is using in the classroom with a cleaner, safer option. Need some resource material about why conventional cleaners are harmful? Please visit this report by the Environmental Working Group. This report outlines how conventional cleaners are linked to cancer and asthma. EWG also provides ways to can engage with schools to convert to greener, safer cleaning products.

3. Go bigger:  On your next meeting with the school nurse, share your concerns about toxic products being used in the school, such as cleaners, strong dry erase markers and white board cleaners. Offer to replace these or help the nurse develop a policy or proposal about cleaning the school’s air. Nurses are a great ally – they want clean air in schools because it means healthier kids! If your nurse isn’t receptive, you can meet with the principal to share your concerns and develop a plan. Need resources? Check out this guide for schools.

4. No idling: Make sure there is a no idling policy at your school. Why? Idling cars produce damaging and avoidable air pollution. The fumes from cars idling can aggravate asthma, cause coughing or difficult breathing, decrease lung function, exacerbate cardiovascular problems and lead to chronic bronchitis. Go here to find out how you can start a no idling campaign at your school (it’s not that hard!).

5. Is big industry nearby?: Ask if the school has had the air quality surrounding the school tested. Research what measures are being taken to reduce air pollution at the plant or industrial site. Visit Childproofing Our Communities for resources and to help organize people in your community. Join the Moms Clean Air Force to fight for clean air in the legislative arena and share your story with us.

This is just the beginning of the conversation about how to clean the air inside and outside of our nation’s schools. Have a great school year!

Please post your thoughts, questions and comments about the issue of school air below.

Clean Air: Race and Place Matter
Green Back to School
Antibacterial Soap in Schools?


Mary B.
Mary B.6 years ago

Plants inside the classroom would add fresh air. Thanks for this article, our children are precious so we must keep them healthy.

Julija S.
Julija S6 years ago


Hana Bosco
Hana Bosco6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Deepti Patil
Deepti Patil6 years ago


Darla G.
Darla G.6 years ago

what about classroom plants to clean the air too? Could that not be a help?

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago


Carla Ring
Carla Ring6 years ago


Victoria M.
Past Member 6 years ago


tt j.
tt j.6 years ago


tt j.
tt j.6 years ago