Who’s Responsible for Environmental Health and Safety in Schools?

Schools throughout the United States are experiencing increasing health issues among their students and teachers. These hazards are wide ranging and can have long-term effects on those who encounter them, making the cause for education and action around health and safety increasingly important.

A 2005 report showed that 43 percent of public school principals relayed that a variety of environmental factors got in the way of proper instruction. What’s more, a 2011 report issues by the Institute of Medicine showed climate change may worsen indoor environmental problems and even introduce new ones. These hazards can come in many forms, including asbestos, pollution, and other air quality matters that can in turn develop major health problems for those affected.

Providing children with healthy, comfortable learning environments should be the top priority for school districts and boards as it’s essential to their overall health and academic success. And while boards and districts should be educated around these hazards, they should also be aware of the importance of educators liability insurance to help protect their financial integrity in the event of allegations and litigation related to health issues.

Increased Risk

Exposure to harmful substances throughout the school can lead to temporary health issues like ear, nose, throat and eye irritation. Students can even develop allergies that were not apparent before. Also, things like fatigue and headaches can become a constant matter, creating a day-long problem. Regular exposure to hazards can increase the risk of developing other health matters later on and have more intense reactions, such as effects to the kidneys, liver, and nervous systems.


If a child has asthma or a low-grade version of it, environmental hazards can pose a great risk. More than seven million children in the U.S. suffer from asthma with more children expected to be diagnosed moving forward. This is due, in part, to environmental issues such as dust, air pollution and overall air quality, especially in more densely populated areas.

Molds, polluted air, pesticides, paints and cleaning agents all share levels of responsibility when asthma is present. Some environmental risks, such as ozone, have been linked to causing asthma in children as their longs are continuing to develop.

Air Pollutants

Schools need to understand the importance of maintaining good air quality inside. Children are more likely to experience complications from indoor pollutants and they require more oxygen. Inhalation of pollutants put school kids at increased risk for asthma and increase the risk for attacks for those who already have it.

Additionally, the air quality and efficiency of HVAC and ventilation systems in schools can have effects that spread irritants and pollutants throughout the school.

Toxic Hazards

Chemical hazards and toxic matters can be found in schools and even be part of the building itself, especially for hold buildings. Asbestos, lead and mercury have been found in older schools and have had lasting effects on students who come in contact with them on a daily basis. It’s important for schools to investigate how these environmental and chemical hazards affect student health and look to route out issues in things like drinking water and other water systems in the school.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.