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Utah schools get free purifiers to combat poor air quality

Air purifier on wooden floor in comfortable home. Fresh air and healthy life.
Adobe Stock
Air purifier on wooden floor in comfortable home. Fresh air and healthy life.

Indoor air is three to four times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the American Lung Association.

A majority of K-12 schools and day-care centers in Utah have received free air purifiers as a result of a federal grant given to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Brandi O'Brien, senior program coordinator and development associate with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said the program ended last month, but adds that 75% of K-12 schools now have air purifiers. For Utah's early childhood education centers it is close to 60%. O'Brien said it's hugely impactful, as her group has been advocating for air purifiers as the state grapples with poor air quality, especially along the Wasatch Front.

"We've heard a lot of feedback from school staff and faculty about what a difference the air purifiers have made," she said. "We've even heard it's helped improve morale in the schools, especially between the teachers who kind of really understand the positive impacts of the air purifiers."

O'Brien added while cleaner air is better for health, it also impacts academic success. Medical research has shown cleaner air helps protect long-term brain development and function, while also helping to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases. While the deadline for the program has passed, O'Brien said a waitlist has been created to be used if additional funding becomes available.

O'Brien said most schools have received their air purifiers, while others are set to receive theirs in the next week, with the start of the school year right around the corner. The American Lung Association says if your child is experiencing symptoms such as sneezing, coughing or headaches that are worse during the school day but improve at home, that could be telling of poor air quality. O'Brien said they have heard their program is showing positive impacts.

"We've already heard back from a handful of schools that think that they've [air purifiers] helped reduce illnesses in the classrooms and keep students in the classrooms as they are not getting as sick, so they can reduce those absent rates and keep students in school," she said.

O'Brien added the program is also looking to secure more funding to help pay for replacement filters that'll be needed in the future.