2017 Progress Report: Healthy High School PRIDE (Partnership in Research on InDoor Environments)

EPA Grant Number: R835638
Title: Healthy High School PRIDE (Partnership in Research on InDoor Environments)
Investigators: Corsi, Richard L. , Kinney, Kerry A. , Novoselac, Atila , Wu, Sarah , Horner, Sharon
Current Investigators: Corsi, Richard L. , Kinney, Kerry A. , Horner, Sharon , Novoselac, Atila , Wu, Sarah
Institution: The University of Texas at Austin
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: February 1, 2015 through January 31, 2019 (Extended to January 31, 2020)
Project Period Covered by this Report: February 1, 2017 through January 31,2018
Project Amount: $989,047
RFA: Healthy Schools: Environmental Factors, Children’s Health and Performance, and Sustainable Building Practices (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Children's Health , Human Health


Past studies of indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools have been deficient in many ways. There has been little progress in determining the actual agents responsible for adverse effects when ventilation is inadequate. Environmental agents responsible for dampness-related health effects have not been determined. Few studies have focused on irritating oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) and their sources. Schools in hot and humid climates have been under-represented. And the focus to date has been on identifying IAQ problems in schools. Proven low-cost solutions are needed.

The overall goal of the proposed study is to address these research gaps by partnering with six* high schools in Central Texas, conducting an intensive field campaign to delineate the relationship between environmental factors and student health, and then investigating the efficacy of low-cost solutions. Specific objectives include: (1) identifying systematic problems in school HVAC systems that cause poor ventilation rates, increased pollutant concentrations and adverse health symptoms for school occupants and exploring low-cost solutions to these problems; (2) utilizing molecular techniques to investigate relationships between composition and diversity of the microbial community present in school classrooms, environmental conditions, and health symptoms; (3) delineating the role of OVOCs on student and teacher health outcomes; and (4) engaging high school student and teacher stewards in the design, data collection and outreach components of the project.

*Seven high schools were actually included in the study in the first year of the field campaign and five were included in the second year.


Progress Summary:

The following tasks have been completed during the current activity period: (1) continued sample and data analysis related to stored microbiological samples from the field campaign; (2) data analysis and/or modeling related to the following IAQ metrics measured in high schools (ozone, formaldehyde, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and rebreathed fraction); (3) development of manuscripts for journal publication; and (4) preparation for presentations at Indoor Air 2018 in Philadelphia.

Outputs during Activity Period: Our team continues to analyze a large amount of field samples and data related to microbes in classrooms. We have continued to analyze data for all other IAQ metrics and corresponding building metadata during the current reporting period. We have also begun working on models to better understand the nature of formaldehyde emissions in classrooms, the benefit/cost of reduced airborne infectious disease transmission due to improved ventilation, and the relative role of ozone sinks in classrooms.

Outcomes: Field measurements and modeling led to a number of interesting and potentially important findings. While not all-inclusive, several outcomes are described below:

  1. For all metrics analyzed to date there does not appear to be a statistically significant difference between IAQ in portable and permanent classrooms. Microbiological data have yet to be processed for this comparison.
  2. Analysis of ozone data for occupied and unoccupied classrooms indicates that students are the major sink for ozone. Ozone reactions with student skin and clothing accounts for over 70% of all ozone removal in classrooms. The first-order ozone removal term (deposition velocity) for individual students observed in this study is twice that previously reported for two adult makes in a Danish chamber experiment and a class of 10-year-old elementary school children in Sweden. We hypothesize that the higher consumption rates in our study are due to two possible factors. First, in Central Texas there may be much greater mixing in classrooms due to recirculation for purposes of air conditioning, thereby increasing the transport-limited deposition velocity and ozone transport to human surfaces. Second, high school students were observed to wear significant amounts of scented body sprays in the participating high schools, thereby potentially increasing reactive molecules on student clothing and skin. These findings are currently being included in a paper that will soon be submitted to the journal Indoor Air. The results will also be presented at podium at Indoor Air 2018 in Philadelphia.
  3. Formaldehyde emissions are a strong function of outdoor air exchange rate in classrooms, increasing with increasing air exchange rate. This is likely due to two factors. First, increased outdoor air exchange leads to lower indoor formaldehyde concentrations, thereby increasing the concentration driving force at surfaces with a subsequent increase in emissions. Second, greater outdoor air exchange may increase mixing intensity enough to significantly increase mass transfer coefficients at materials that emit formaldehyde. These findings have been included in a paper submitted to the journal Building and Environment. The results will also be presented at podium at Indoor Air 2018 in Philadelphia.
  4. Monte Carlo simulations based on probability distributions developed from measured data in our study have been used to explore the benefits and costs of increased outdoor air supply to reduce student absences due to illness during cold and flu season. Benefits are measured in economic terms as reduced school district absences and hence greater state appropriations. Costs are measured in terms of increased energy use and related cost due to increased outdoor air exchange rates. Our findings suggest that the optimum increase in air exchange rate is 1.5 x measured air exchange rates. Beyond this amount, there are reduced absences but prohibitively large energy costs to school districts. These results will be presented at podium at Indoor Air 2018 in Philadelphia.

Future Activities:

In the next activity period, we will focus on:

  • Completion of analysis of field samples and data as related to microbiological samples
  • Publishing in peer-reviewed archived journals (see above)
  • Presenting findings at Indoor Air 2018 in Philadelphia
  • Development of educational videos (as short modules) intended for school districts and the general public relating to major practical findings of this study
  • Use of social media to highlight major findings of our work

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 25 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Children’s respiratory health, community partnership, school practice, mediators, particulates, surveys, test scores, attendance

Relevant Websites:

Relevant Web Sites: We have not yet developed a formal website for our work because of delays in publishing. However, The PI (Corsi) has started to blog and intends to write several blog pieces about our study over the next year, with the first by end of December 2017.

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report
  • Final Report