The dangers of indoor air quality, and what we’re doing to help

KSL Channel 5 did a nice piece last week on the air purifiers in schools program UPHE works on with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. We now have nearly half the schools in the state, and a third of the licensed pre-K/ daycare centers participating. We’ve placed over 16,000 air purifiers so far.

This program was made possible by a federal grant to help reopen schools in the wake of the pandemic.

Parents, ask your children’s school if they have air purifiers in your child’s classroom, especially if they are in Granite District. If not, tell the principal to get on board. With COVID and RSV widely circulating among young children, air purifiers can reduce infection rates for not only school children, but the entire family and the rest of the community, because fewer children will bring those infections home to spread it to parents and siblings.

A mountain of research has now established that air pollution is toxic to brain development and brain function for all ages, even in the short term. Air pollution on the day of a test reduces test scores. Children who switch from a school that is upwind from a highway to one that is downwind of a highway experience a drop in test scores, decline in behavior, and an increase in absences. Exposure in childhood can leave life time impacts. 

These are just a few of hundreds of studies that show how air pollution can impair cognition, memory, and learning ability. The harm accumulates over time. Millions of tiny pollution nanoparticles actually become embedded in brain tissue, causing what amounts to brain inflammation and scarring, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurologic diseases decades later.

New York University researchers found that scrubbing already “clean air,” by placing an inexpensive ($700), high performance room air purifier in each classroom, capable of reducing particulate pollution 90%, improved math and english test scores about 0.2 standard deviations, or about 5%. Think of an air purifier as a brain purifier.

They concluded that classroom air filters would provide greater education cost/benefit, in some cases far greater, than other interventions such as a 30% reduction in class size, “high dose tutoring,” increasing family income with an earned income tax credit, or the Head Start program. For a fraction of the cost of one new high school, every classroom in the state could be equipped with an effective air purifier.

Your children deserve the best learning environment possible. To make sure your school gets these air purifiers, go to this page, or email