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Physicians push for more air purifiers in classrooms amid air quality concerns

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 02, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Physicians in Utah are pushing to get air purifiers in every classroom.

According to Dr. Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, poor air quality can negatively affect the performance of students in class.

"On an acute basis, even on a per-hour basis, air pollution exposure can affect brain function," said Dr. Moench. "Such that students in their ability to learn in the classroom can be harmed in simple things like taking tests from the air pollution inside those rooms during the test."

Dr. Moench said after he and other physicians saw a raft of studies showing children perform worse when there's air pollution inside the classroom, they decided to ask for a grant.

The federal government gave the group and the Utah Department of Health and Human Services that grant to start their mission of providing schools with air purifiers.

"Studies show that cleaner air can improve students' ability to think to learn to read to solve math problems," said Dr. Moench. "So if we can clean that up, we know students’ performance, their academic career and potential will be enhanced.”

Dr. Moench said right now around 60% of schools in Utah have these purifiers, but he hopes to get that number to 90, even 100%.

“Being able to have the healthiest classrooms for our students, for our teachers, that’s what we want to do," said the Principal of Salt Lake Arts Academy Deborah Candler.

Candler said it was a no-brainer for her to accept 20 purifiers for the school.

"For a small school like us, we would have never been able to afford to purchase one of those machines in every one of our classrooms," said Candler.

Dr. Moench said the air purifiers in schools program has a beneficial ripple effect throughout the community.

Less transmission of respiratory illness in the classroom means fewer parents have to stay home with sick kids, and there is also less spread of infections like the flu and COVID to students and the broader community.

“We need to make sure that all parents throughout the state know that this is available for any school that their Children go to," he said.

The federal grant ends on July 31, and schools must order them before then. 

To make sure your school gets these air purifiers, you can visit their website