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Public Health (27-01-2015)

Improving indoor air quality in EU schools

SINPHONIE, an EU-funded research project on indoor air quality in EU schools, and its impact on children's health, has recently published its conclusions. Based on the evidence gathered, the Joint Research Centre and the partners developed guidelines for maintaining good air quality. They are expected to contribute to healthier school environments in Europe.

On school days, over 64 million European students and almost 4.5 million teachers are affected by the quality of the air they breathe inside their schools. Asthmatic people are particularly sensitive to poor air quality and pollutants.

Indoor air quality in school buildings is affected by outdoor air pollution, building characteristics and operation and management practices, including cleaning, maintenance, and ventilation. Paints, glues and other products for didactic purposes are also important sources of indoor pollution. The relevance of the state of the school buildings is also underlined.

Based on the findings, the report states that in order to guarantee good air quality in schools, attention needs to be paid to ventilation and occupation densities.


Specific guidelines were developed to promote a cost-effective preventive approach to indoor air quality control. They cover aspects such as cleaning, ventilation, heating, the use of equipment, as well as structural requirements for school buildings. They also contain specific tips for creating a healthy environment in classrooms, science labs, gyms, school canteens, locker rooms and recreational areas.

The guidelines are intended to complement the already existing efforts at national and local level. They are directed at policy-makers and local authorities, who are able to undertake actions but they can also support construction companies, school staff, children and their parents in their aim to make our schools healthier.


The EU-funded research project SINPHONIE (Schools Indoor Pollution and Health – Observatory Network in Europe) was jointly managed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety and the Joint Research Centre. The project monitored air quality and related exposure among 5 175 schoolchildren in 114 primary schools in 23 European countries. It allowed assessing the impact of poor air quality on children's health, growth, learning performance and development.

The project brought together the multidisciplinary expertise of partners from 25 countries.

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