How School Buildings Can Make Kids Sick

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There are a number of environmental things that can affect your child's health, and conditions in schools could be making him/her sick or worsening health issues your child already has. This article lists the major ones that could possibly be causing problems in your area, and for your child.


Poor air quality and mold growth can make susceptible children very ill. A way to find out that the school environment is harming your child is to note the times a child is sick and when. If he/she stays relatively healthy during summer breaks and holidays, but spends quite of the school year sick or feeling bad, this is a clue. If there are a number of children (and teachers/staff) attending the same school having the same health issues, this could indicate a serious health hazard.

Mold growth in schools can cause:

  • Skin, eye, or throat irritation
  • Repeated sinus infections
  • Increase in asthma symptoms
  • Allergic reactions that can range from stuffy nose to fever, and cause breathing difficulties
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (similar to pneumonia)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Complications in people who have obstructive lung disease

This environmental condition is becoming more common in school districts where funding has been cut, and the maintenance of buildings is being neglected.

Remodeling and Carpets

Sometimes a child can have allergic reactions or worsening asthma symptoms when a school is being remodeled.  Some of the substances and materials being used may be problematic for your child, like carpet glues, carpet fibers, or paint, etc. Just having carpet in a school hallway or classroom may cause some kids problems, because people bring in allergens on their shoes from the outside that get trapped into it.

Air Pollutants

Not only can mold growth be a problem but if your child's school is near factories that are releasing toxic chemicals in the air, these toxins can become concentrated in the building's air flow system.

Children are especially susceptible because they are still developing physically and they breathe in more air in proportion to their weight that adults do. In this case, children may feel generally unwell and have attention or behavioral issues, and could actually develop cancer either now or later. If a school is near a factory, the higher rates of present and former students developing various cancers should be looked into, and the causes should be investigated.

Lead Poisoning

Some older schools still have lead in their paint, dust, soil, and water. There have been laws introduced between 2007 and 2010 to address the ways cleanup and removal of lead based products are accomplished. While the population in general is safer due to laws restricting this element in gas and household products, there are still children showing up with lead in their blood/body tissues, and no safe level for humans has been determined.

Lead poisoning is insidious and builds up in children's bodies over a period of time. Symptoms can include:

  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Communication issues
  • Memory problems
  • Being functionally fixated—not very creative in problem solving
  • Lower IQ scores
  • Deteriorating fine motor skills.

A blood test can determine if a child has lead poisoning.

Chelation (using drugs to get rid of the buildup) may be used to help a child with acute lead poisoning. Children with even low lead levels need to be removed from the source, so their bodies can work naturally to rid themselves of this poison. A healthy well-balanced diet with adequate amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamin C will help a child's lead levels to decrease.


Before concluding that something in your school is to blame, be methodical in narrowing down the cause. You don't want to cause a big ruckus and then find out you were wrong. A family doctor from a clinic like Green & Seidner Family Practice will have suggestions to help you to help you in this endeavor. If it is apparent that there is a serious health issue in the building, your child's doctor can work with local health authorities to improve conditions in the school.