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Federal study Lack of fresh air hinders pupils’ learning capacities

three children in classroom

Poor air quality can cause a headache and make pupils feel tired. 

(© Keystone/Christian Beutler)

The air quality in many Swiss classrooms is poor, affecting pupils’ ability to concentrate and causing headaches, says a study conducted by the Federal Health Office. 

Theexternal link results published on Monday found that most classrooms showed a lack of fresh air, which had a detrimental impact on students’ well-being and performance. The study relied on tests conducted in around 100 classrooms in several parts of Switzerland over the past two years. 

The authors concluded that classroom air quality was unacceptable in two-thirds of classrooms studied. “Unacceptable” air quality was defined as more than 2,000 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2). By comparison, outside air contains about 400 ppm of CO2.  

The Federal Health Office also published an online toolexternal link for properly airing out classrooms, which recommends when and how long to open windows based on the room’s area and number of occupants. 

Teachers’ associations say the study confirms their criticism of high levels of carbon dioxide levels in classrooms. In 2015, the country’s largest such association called for a study of school air quality, citing increasing class sizes and less classroom space as factors to consider.  

Teachers’ groups are calling on national, cantonal and local authorities to step up efficient health protection for students and staff, arguing that workplace protection laws should also apply to schools.

In addition to properly airing out classrooms, the health office urges improving ventilation systems for newly built and renovated school buildings.  

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