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News Releases from Region 06

UT Austin Studies Six Central Texas High Schools Indoor Air Quality, Research grant will help create a healthier environment for children

Contact Information: 
Joe Hubbard (r6press@epa.gov)
Jennah Durant

DALLAS - (May 22, 2015) With nearly seven million U.S. children having asthma, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are taking steps to maintain indoor environments for 120 high school classrooms across central Texas. The EPA recently awarded over $989,000 to UT Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering to research gaps in information between environmental factors and student health.

"This project will discover innovative and practical solutions to improve our schools," said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. "We want to make sure our schools are healthy places for our children to learn, play and grow."

UT Austin's project, Healthy High School PRIDE (Partnership in Research on Indoor Environments), is a four-year partnership that investigates a wide range of environmental parameters such as noise, lighting and indoor air quality in Texas high schools. The researchers will also spend summer periods testing innovative, low-cost engineering approaches for improving high school interior environments. The goal of the project is to inform decisions related to high school building design, construction, maintenance and operational practices that lead to healthy school environments.

"There is increasing evidence that poor indoor air quality and inadequate classroom ventilation contributes to student illness, absenteeism and decreases in academic performance," said Richard Corsi, Chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering. "With a team of engineering, planning and health professionals, we hope to shed light on how indoor environmental conditions affect students and teachers' health and learning, as well as test low-cost practical solutions to improve indoor air quality. We believe that the critical knowledge we gain over the next four years in Central Texas will eventually be applied to other schools nationally."

The project will also provide a hands-on learning experience for students. High school students will complete workshops related to indoor environmental quality and team-based projects on indoor air quality. Additionally, teachers at participating high schools will use the study as a basis for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math lessons related to indoor environmental science and engineering, and data analysis.

This month EPA is raising awareness and focusing efforts to improve the lives of children and families with asthma. Asthma is a major public health issue, affecting nearly 23 million people and disproportionally affecting low-income and minority communities. The economic impact of asthma amounts to more than $56 billion per year from direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as missed school and work days.

Americans can take important steps to help control their asthma symptoms and maintain active lifestyles with three simple steps:

1. Identify and avoid environmental asthma triggers. Air pollution, dust mites, secondhand smoke, mold, pests, and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks. Work with your doctor to identify and avoid your personal asthma triggers, since asthma sufferers are affected differently.

2. Create an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan will help you monitor your asthma daily and will offer steps to reduce your exposure to your personal triggers through effective control strategies. Ask your doctor to assist you in creating an asthma action plan.

3. Pay attention to air quality. Exposure to ozone and particle pollution can cause asthma attacks. Check local air quality conditions at http://airnow.gov and download an Air Quality Index app for your smart phone.

For more information on efforts to combat asthma disparities visit: http://www.epa.gov/childrenstaskforce/index.html

To learn more about the project please visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.abstractDetail/abstract/10242/report/0

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