Woman says school air sickened her son for 53 days last school year
New York study finds correlation between building maintenance and illness
Studies estimate one-third of U.S. schools have mold, dust and other indoor air problems
Connecticut school so plagued with mold officials decided to tear it down
As a third-grader in Winsted, Connecticut, last year, Matthew Asselin was sick – a lot. He was lethargic and plagued with a persistent wet cough, respiratory infections and painful headaches.
As the school year wound down, Matthew’s health worsened. He was out for two weeks in the spring with pneumonia and then developed a sinus infection so severe he needed to spend the night at the hospital, where he received intravenous antibiotics and breathing treatments.
In all, Matthew missed 53 days of school.
But over the summer, a strange thing happened. Matthew was healthy. He was energetic. He could ride his bike for hours at a time.
“When we put him back in school this year, within three weeks, he missed 10 days with a respiratory infection,” Melissa Asselin said. That’s when Matthew’s mother had an a-ha moment.
“When he was out of school, he was well. When he was in school, he became ill,” Asselin said.
Matthew’s parents concluded that the 9-year-old’s school, Hinsdale Elementary, was making their son sick.
Indoor air problems
Figures are hard to come by, but studies have estimated that a third or more of U.S. schools have mold, dust and other indoor air problems serious enough to provoke respiratory issues like asthma in students and teachers.
A national survey of school nurses found that 40% knew children and staff adversely affected by indoor pollutants.
Indoor air affects more than health. A growing body of research suggests students also perform better in schools with healthier air.
“If you get an unhealthy building, you’re not going to have a successful school,” said Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the United States.
“Asthma is the number one chronic illness that keeps kids out of school, and it’s growing,” Eskelsen added.