VDOE supports school divisions with guidance and technical assistance to address concerns about potential indoor environmental hazards.
Indoor Air Quality
The indoor school environment plays a critical role in the health and academic success of Virginia’s school children. Children spend 90% of their time indoors and much of that time is spent in our school buildings. Unhealthy school buildings can impact children’s health, attendance and performance. It may also cause school divisions to spend critical funds on cleanup and remediation activities. Providing a healthy school environment will help foster student health and academic achievement and should be a goal of every school division in the Commonwealth. For more information on creating healthy school environments, see the following Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) topics:
The EPA has developed voluntary guidelines to assist states in establishing and implementing environmental health programs for K-12 schools. These guidelines build on existing programs such as the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools program.
The Code of Virginia requires that school buildings and additions opened for operation after July 1, 1994, shall be tested for radon pursuant to such EPA procedures and regulations prescribed by the Board of Education. Each school must maintain files of its radon test results and make such files available for review. Division superintendents are required to report radon test results to the Virginia Department of Health.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends radon testing in “all frequently–occupied rooms that are in contact with the ground.” Examples of rooms in school buildings to be tested include classrooms, offices, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias. Areas such as storage rooms, stairwells, toilets, closets, kitchens, or hallways need not be tested. EPA testing guidance for schools is available from the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Radiological Health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided guidance on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that may be found in caulk used in many buildings, including schools, constructed or renovated between 1950 and 1978. PCBs are toxic chemicals that build up in the body if there is exposure to high levels over a long period of time. Practical steps to address PCBs in caulk include improved ventilation and hygiene, and the EPA recommends that school administrators take these steps to reduce exposure to PCBs in buildings constructed or renovated between 1950 and 1978.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
AHERA requires school divisions to inspect for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. The EPA, Region III, Pesticides Asbestos Programs and Enforcement Branch Waste and Management Division, enforces AHERA laws in Virginia. VDOE reminds school divisions of their obligations and responsibilities regarding AHERA. More information:
AHERA requires school divisions to designate a “local education agency designee,” to ensure implementation within the school system. LEA designees may choose to obtain the training needed to carry out this responsibility by attending an Asbestos Inspector and Management Planner class taught by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.
Pest management can be an integral part of an indoor air quality management program. While pesticides can help control pests, they need to be used carefully. Children may be more sensitive to pesticides and are particularly susceptible when engaging in play or through hand-to-mouth activities. Integrated Pest Management (IMP) is a safer and less costly option to manage pest in schools. A school IMP program will commonly use common sense strategies to reduce food sources, water and shelter for pests. A successful IPM program will include the careful use of pesticides and should rely on a combination of the following: low-impact pesticides, comprehensive information about pests, economical pest control methods and safety consideration for the school building, students and staff. For detailed information regarding Integrated Pest Management (IMP) in Schools, please visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency links listed below.
VDOE assists the Office of Pesticide Services of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) by providing information to public school divisions regarding programs to help school divisions develop Integrated Pest Management Plans. These activities have included a survey of pest management practices of all school divisions and regional workshops focused on the Integrated Pest Management program.
Pesticide Applicator Certification
Under the Virginia Pesticide Control Act, any person who uses or supervises the use of pesticides on any area open to the general public at an educational institution or within any area where food is processed or stored must be certified as a pesticide applicator. Persons using or supervising the use of these pesticides must be certified as either a commercial pesticide applicator not for hire or as a registered technician working under the supervision of a certified commercial pesticide applicator. For questions or additional information, contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Pesticide Services.