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Environmental Health of Portable Classrooms

Original post made by Annette, Barron Park, on Feb 23, 2007

While I have heard much discussion of school population with respect to portables, I haven't heard anything about the issue of the health impacts to those spending time in them. Manufactured/portable classrooms are often built and finished with materials that off-gas (e.g., high levels of formaldeyde due to all the pressed wood products used in construction)or are constructed in a manner that does not provide good indoor air quality. Health should not be compromised for inexpensive, low quality designs and healthy portable classroom designs are available.

There have been studies performed that document issues with portable classrooms and it is important that the school district specify design, commissioning and maintenance to make these portable classrooms safe.

I checked the PAUSD web site but could not find any references to this issue. There are studies on the health issues (one is referenced below) and the US EPA has prepared sample specs and information on commissioning, operations and maintenance.

Does anyone know if this issue is being addressed for the portable classrooms on the way or in the long term facilities master plan?

The US EPA has prepared guidelines for specs: Web Link

California Air Resources Board Study, "ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
Web Link

Comments (3)

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2007 at 9:34 am

There seem to be lots of different kinds of portables. Some are basic, some are quite fancy. I am sure the district will assert that they are all "certified" or something. I believe Los Altos Elem. School District has very fancy portables.

A true story: many years ago, when I first moved to this area, my class was in a portable (which I had not experienced prior to moving to California) and it made me feel ill but this may have had more to do with the air conditioning. I actually fainted once on leaving the room and going out into high temperatures outside. I ALWAYS felt uncomfortable in that portable. Too bad I was unable to voice my discomfort. I have visited portables periodically since that time, and don't particularly care for them but haven't felt ill or anything.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Portables are pretty well regulated by the State Division of Architecture. They usually have heat pumps and a healthy amount of outside air. I suspect the early problems with outgassing of materials has pretty well been resolved.

Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 24, 2007 at 7:47 pm

I taught in one years ago, and other than the unsightly exterior and the proximity to my school's parking lot, I actually preferred it to the regular classrooms. It was spacious, with independent heat/AC control, and the soft wall coverings that you can easily put a pin or staple into to decorate the room. I never heard any complaints from students or parents, although I had one colleague who thought teaching in a portable was contributing to some respiratory issues.

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