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School Environmental Health and Safety Program

 

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Bureau of Environmental Health, Indoor Environments Section houses the School Environmental Health (SEH) Program.  This program works to improve the environmental health of Ohio’s schools through non-regulatory means. Over 1.75 million children and 100 thousand adults across Ohio spend their days in K-12 schools*. A growing body of research strongly supports the importance of school environmental health to both the educational success and overall health and well-being of Ohio's school children and staff. "Poor environmental conditions can thwart academic progress by making it harder for students to concentrate, causing or exacerbating illness in students and staff, increasing absences and lost work days, and diverting school funds to pay for costly repair and remediation projects**."

On the other hand, improvement in school environmental conditions can have significant positive impacts***. In one study "children in classrooms with higher outdoor air ventilation rates scored 14 to 15% higher on standardized tests than children in classrooms with lower outdoor air ventilation rates****."

In addition to wellness and the advancement of the core educational mission, attention to environmental quality can improve the financial health of Ohio's schools. In a study of classroom ventilation rates (VRs) and student illness absences in California elementary schools, researchers estimated that "increasing classroom VRs from the California average (4 l/s-person) to the state standard would decrease illness absences by 3.4%, increase attendance-linked funding to schools by $33 million annually, and increase costs by only $4 million*****."


Click here to open Ohio Department of Health School Environmental Health Voluntary Guidelines The current ODH School Environmental Health Inspection Guidance Document can be accessed here. Local Health Departments are under no obligation to use this guidance and it is not enforceable by law. The guidelines provide information and resources regarding inspections that address current issues in school environmental health and protect the health of school building occupants.
Click here to open the School Environmental Health Brochure
The ODH has received a grant from the USEPA to develop updated voluntary K-12 guidelines for school environmental health. The SEH program has put together an Advisory Panel (SEHAP) whose goal is to have the guidelines completed no later than July 31, 2014. In  addition to the written guidelines, regional trainings to introduce the guidelines will be presented by Sanitarians from each local health department represented on the panel. These trainings will be convenient, accessible events for school personnel and public health officials. An ongoing communication network (OSHEN - register below), and tiered recognition for implementation of the guidelines at varying levels, will help to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of the program into the future.

*http://nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/sresult.asp?mode=short&s1=39
** http://www.eli.org/buildings/topics-school/environmental-health
***Haverinen-Shaughnessy U, Moschandreas DJ, Shaughnessy RJ. (2011) Association between substandard classroom ventilation rates and students’ academic achievement. Indoor Air. 2011 Apr;21(2):121-31. 
Mendell, M.J., Eliseeva, E.A., Davies, M.M., Spears, M., Lobscheid, A., Fisk, W.J., Apte,M.G. (2013). Association of classroom ventilation with reduced illness absence:a prospective study in California elementary schools. Indoor Air 23, 515–528. 
Moore C, Uyeda K, Cuevas Y, Villanueva R. (2010). Los Angeles Unified School District’s comprehensive asthma program. NASN Sch Nurse. 2010 Sep;25(5):210-2.
http://online.tarleton.edu/ACEF/ACEFJournal2011Vol1/pubData/source/ACEF%20Journal%20Vol1%20Issue1%20August%202011.pdf
Simons E, Hwang SA, Fitzgerald EF, Kielb C, Lin S. (2010) The impact of school building conditions on student absenteeism in Upstate New York. Am J Public Health. 2010 Sep;100(9):1679-86.****http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/schools/
****Shaughnessy, R., U. Shaughnessy, et al. 2006. “A preliminary study on the association between ventilation rates in classrooms and student performance.” Indoor Air 16(6):465-468.
*****9 Mendell, M.J., Eliseeva, E.A., Davies, M.M., Spears, M., Lobscheid, A., Fisk, W.J., Apte,M.G. (2013). Association of classroom ventilation with reduced illness absence:a prospective study in California elementary schools. Indoor Air 23, 515–528.

OSHEN (Ohio Schools' Healthy Environment Network) Complete registration below to join the communications network consisting of Ohio schools, major educational organizations, and other interested stakeholders throughout the state. The purpose of this network is to receive public comment about the updated guidelines, offer training, and provide collaboration for the sharing of information related to school environmental health.


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Equipment Calibration:
Local health departments who wish to have their carbon dioxide meters calibrated can do so by shipping the devices to ODH.  The devices must be shipped in a manner in which they can be tracked and sent to the mailing address contained on this page.

If you have questions, please contact program staff using the information listed below.

Mailing Address:
Ohio Department of Health
School Environmental Health and Safety Program
246 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Telephone: (614) 466-1390
Fax: (614) 466-4556

E-mail: SEH@odh.ohio.gov

Last Updated:  07/09/14