Sending your child off to college is both an exhilarating and anxiety-inducing experience for parents, especially when their child has pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, allergies, or an autoimmune disease. The fact is that often the environment your child is exposed to while at college is much different than the environment at home. This might be the first time he/she lives in a big city, or alternatively, the first time he/she lives in or near a farming community, or a manufacturing community. Additionally, this will likely be the first time your child is in proximity to large groups of people in classrooms during the daytime, and lives in dorms with large quantities of young people while not in the classroom. The indoor air quality in college dorms is a genuine cause for concern, as studies have revealed that more than 39% of student dormitories are plagued by mold. This alarming statistic is further exemplified by the actions taken by students at Howard University, who organized a nine-day sit-in to protest the presence of mold in 34 dorm rooms.
However, the troubling state of indoor air quality in college dorms extends beyond mold. Startlingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 50% of schools suffer from poor air quality. Additionally, a staggering 80% of campus power plants are classified as major sources of air pollution under the federal clean air program. Unfortunately, much of this pollution finds its way into the very place where your child spends a significant amount of time - their dorm room. Disturbingly, while we sleep, we lose approximately 50% of our lung capacity to filter toxins, making the potential exposure to pollutants during sleep even more concerning.
For parents of students with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions, these statistics and facts are undoubtedly disconcerting. The idea that their beloved child spends countless hours near hundreds of other students, inhaling mold spores, bacteria, dust, chemicals, and other airborne allergens is truly alarming. Furthermore, the presence of secondhand smoke from cigarettes and vapes, as well as other less-than-ideal activities that occur in dorms, only adds to the potential risks.
The dangers do not end there, unfortunately. Building materials and furniture commonly found in dormitories emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. These harmful gases have been known to cause and exacerbate various health conditions, including cancer. It is understandable that as a parent, you are naturally worried about the well-being of your child. After all, they will always be your baby, no matter how grown up they may be.
But there are steps you can take to help improve the indoor air quality in your child’s college dorm.
- Communicate with the college: Reach out to the college administration and express your concerns about indoor air quality. Ask about their protocols for addressing mold, ventilation, and other air quality issues. It is important to stay informed and make sure the college is taking steps to maintain a healthy environment for students.
- Use an Austin Air Purifier from Allergy Solutions Air Purifiers: Consider providing your child with a portable air purifier for their dorm room. Look for a purifier with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which can help remove allergens, mold spores, and other pollutants from the air. The Austin Air Purifier from Allergy Solutions Air Purifiers is the perfect choice for your child’s health at college, because it contains a medical grade filter that is packed with so much activated carbon, zeolite and a high-end HEPA filter that the filter does not have to be changed for up to 5 years. Austin Air purifiers by Allergy Solutions Air Purifiers have 60 square feet of HEPA and up to 15 pounds of activated carbon. No other air purifier comes close. This air purifier will take your child through college with no filter changes necessary for his or her entire 4- or 5-year college term, and requires no maintenance.
- Encourage good ventilation: Advise your child to keep their windows open whenever possible to allow fresh air to circulate in the room. Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining good indoor air quality.
- Clean regularly: Encourage your child to keep their dorm room clean and free of dust and clutter. Regular vacuuming and dusting can help reduce allergens and improve air quality.
- Use natural cleaning products: Many conventional cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Encourage your child to use natural, non-toxic cleaning products that are safer for both their health and the environment.
- Educate your child: Teach your child about the importance of indoor air quality and how it can affect their health. Encourage them to be mindful of their surroundings and take steps to improve air quality in their living space.
- Consider a dorm room air quality test: If you’re particularly concerned about the air quality in your child’s dorm, you may want to consider investing in an air quality testing kit. These kits can help identify specific pollutants and allergens in the air, giving you a better understanding of the potential risks.
Remember, while it is important to be proactive in addressing indoor air quality concerns, it is also crucial to trust that the college is taking appropriate measures to provide a safe and healthy living environment for their students. Stay informed, communicate your concerns, and work together to ensure your child’s well-being during their college years.
For more information, see:
Study on mold in student dorms:
Source: Reponen, T., Singh, U., Schaffer, C., Vesper, S., Johansson, E., Adhikari, A., … & Grinshpun, S. A. (2017). Visually observed mold and moldy odor versus quantitatively measured microbial exposure in homes. Science of The Total Environment, 579, 1394-1403.
Mold protest at Howard University:
Source: The Guardian.com, October 2021, Howard University students stage sit-in after mold is found in dorm rooms. The Washington Post.
EPA report on poor air quality in schools:
Source: American Lung Association, (50% of schools have poor indoor air quality), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 2022): Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Action Kit.
Air pollution from campus power plants: Reuters (November, 2022): U.S. colleges talk green, but they have a dirty secret
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2023): Clean Air Act Stationary Sources and Outdoor Air Quality.
Please note that the specific percentages mentioned in the blog are approximations and may vary based on different studies and sources.