The responses of 17,000 residents of Vantaa have been compiled: indoor air quality problems are experienced in a large portion of schools

The general report of the survey regarding indoor air symptoms in the City of Vantaa’s facilities is ready. The indoor air quality situation in Vantaa is at the same level as in other municipalities. On the basis of the city-wide report of the results, indoor air quality nuisances in Vantaa’s schools, day care centers, and the Varia vocational school are common.

In the results, about 10% of school buildings and 15% of day care center buildings are in order according to the evaluation of their users. All problem areas are not necessarily identified only using technical assessments of the construction, in which the users think that indoor air quality nuisances and symptoms occur. There are numerous sites that require immediate actions, but a final list of the sites is not yet available.

89% of primary school students feel that their own state of health is good or excellent. 70% of lower secondary school students feel this way. Of children in early education, the parents of 86% say their state of health is good or excellent. At Varia, the corresponding number is 68%, 72% among staff.

The study is the broadest done in regard to the indoor air quality, symptoms, illnesses, and nuisances in Finnish schools and day care centers until now. 17,000 persons, or 40% of the recipients of the survey, responded to the questionnaire. Over 60% of staff responded to the questionnaire.

- The study is groundbreaking, no assessment of a similar breadth has been made before regarding, for example, the situation in day care centers. The results complement the image that the City of Vantaa already had of the current health and safety of the city’s facilities. On the basis of the results, we will ensure that repair work will be directed toward the most important sites, says assistant mayor Elina Lehto-Häggroth.

Symptoms connected to exposure to indoor air quality is least in day care centers and most common in the lower secondary schools, with the students and staff of the vocational school. A connection was found between the indoor air quality factors and asthma, no connection was found in this study to other chronic illnesses.

- The portion of buildings with indoor air quality problems is at the same level as in other municipalities participating in the SataKunta project, says professor of occupational health and environmental medicine Tuula Putus of the University of Turku regarding the study.

The most common indoor air quality environmental nuisances are noise, fug, and dust. Exposure to microbiological smells, especially sewage smells, was brought up as a nuisance in many sites. – On the part of children in early education, plentiful outings decrease the risk of having symptoms, Putus says.

- We can already say on the basis of the results that more attention than before needs to be paid to exposure to sewage gasses. The noise and dust levels of facilities are also issues that we can quickly affect with our own measures. We will resolve ventilation issues individually for buildings, in accord with the guidelines for indoor air quality network for municipalities, says Real Estate Center director Pekka Wallenius.

The city has published the city level report in its entirety at the address vantaa.fi/oirekysely (in Finnish). In addition to this, the University of Turku will produce site-specific reports. The City of Vantaa will publish them and will inform about them separately when the University of Turku has delivered all of the reports to the City of Vantaa.

- It already appears in the city level report that the conditions in the city’s facilities is variable. The site-specific reports will bring more exactitude to this point. The indoor air quality nuisances reported by users will direct where the city needs to direct more exact studies and immediate measures, says Wallenius.

Along with the study, the procedures of the City of Vantaa in regard to indoor air quality issues will continue normally. It is important that those suffering from symptoms seek treatment, that they are examined and treated in the way their symptoms require. So that the number of symptoms in students can be accurately known, their guardians are asked to notify the school public health nurse about the symptoms of such a child that are suspected of having to do with the school’s indoor air quality. Occupational health care is to be kept abreast of suspicions of symptoms caused by indoor air quality. Those working in the sites are to continue to file notifications regarding indoor air quality problems that they observe to their supervisors, also. The City of Vantaa has an established protocol for investigating and repairing indoor air quality matters.

The general report has been compiled of the material from the answers of school pupils and guardians and the answers of the guardians of children in day care centers, the questionnaires filled in by the city’s and Vanti’s staff, and the survey of Varia’s students. There are about 200 schools and day care centers in total. About 35,000 children, pupils and students are in the different target groups, as well as 4,800 workers in the facilities. The study was performed using electronic questionnaires 3.11.2018–20.1.2019. The indoor air quality questionnaire is part of the Satakunta project of the University of Turku.

More information regarding the symptom survey

Published: 3.4.2019 
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