GREENGUARD Indoor Air Guardian
GreenGuard Indoor Air Guardian




September 2009

Feature Article
High Performance Schools & Indoor Air Quality

High performance schools, as outlined by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), create a “healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.” The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) lists twelve key characteristics high performance schools must meet including being healthy, comfortable, energy efficient, environmentally responsible and adaptable to changing needs. Minimizing indoor air pollutants is paramount to high performance schools, due to the potentially detrimental effects volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates including allergens and molds and combustion gases may have on the health and wellbeing of children. In addition to their capacity to trigger asthma or allergy attacks, some of these pollutants are notorious for causing flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

The high importance leadership standards such as CHPS and USGBC’s LEED for Schools place on minimizing indoor pollutants is based on countless studies suggesting healthy indoor environments are critical to protect children’s health and raise academic achievements. For example, the Center for Building Performance at Carnegie Mellon University’s Building Investment Decision Support (BIDS) program reviewed more than 1,500 studies related to indoor environmental quality and concluded that “seventeen separate studies all found positive health impacts (reduction in reported prevalence of symptoms) from improved indoor air quality, ranging from 13.5 percent to 87 percent improvements, with an average improvement of 41 percent” (Kats 2006). A National Research Council interim report concludes: “The body of available research is suggestive of an association between the condition of a school building and student achievement. All of the studies analyzed by the committee found that student test scores improved as the physical condition of school buildings improved” (National Research Council 2006). A California Air Resources Board (CARB) study shows children exposed to high levels of VOCs are four times more likely to develop asthma than adults in the same environment. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence, in addition to alarming statistics like an estimated 60,000 schools reporting indoor air quality problems and students in the United States missing 14 million days of school every year due to asthma, improving indoor air quality in schools must be made a top priority.

Fortunately, creating and maintaining healthy learning environments for children and teachers can be quite simple and can be accomplished at very little cost. A combination of three techniques can be used to address most indoor air quality challenges: ventilation, filtration and source control. Ventilation and air filtration provide clean air circulating through the building for teachers and students to breathe. Source control, described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association, is the most effective way to reduce indoor air pollutants, minimizing the harmful emissions of chemicals into the air. Choosing finishes, building products, furniture, school supplies and even cleaning chemicals that are third-party certified for low chemical emissions can drastically improve the quality of air school occupants breathe. Small steps, like including GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certification in a school specification set, can prove to be an effective and inexpensive approach to embracing indoor air quality in educational facilities as well as bettering the quality of children’s learning environments.

Enhancing a school’s indoor environment can contribute to student / teacher productivity, financial savings, positive community image and the overall success of a school as a healthy learning environment. Specifying GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified products may help schools meet the requirements outlined in leading high performance school programs, such as LEED, CHPS or the EPA’s Tools for Schools, but most importantly, it will improve a school’s indoor air quality thereby creating healthy learning environments.

The GREENGUARD Children & Schools Program offers third-party certified products, specifically tested to respond to the sensitive nature of schools and their occupants. To find certified products, please visit To learn more about the important role indoor air quality plays in high performance schools, read a complete research report titled “Green, High Performance Schools.” This report can be found here.

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Press Room

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) serves as a resource for publications and media outlets, providing information on various topics that relate to product emissions and indoor air quality. The following are recent articles and features.

Chicago Tribune
Avoid the marketing misuse of 'green'

The Giggle Guide
GREENGUARD Nursery Premiers at ABC Show

Business Resource
What is a Green Product?

NAHB National Green Building Standard

Athletic Business
Finish Lines

What's Up?
Greening Your Home and Life

A Third-party Certification Program and Resources Primer

PR Log
Nation’s First School of Sustainability Uses greenscreen® to Help Cool Interior

Greener Flooring announces the first search engine for green flooring products for LEED architects and builders

To read these and past articles, visit the Press Room/Articles under the 'About GEI' tab on the GEI website. Read More...

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New Specifications

A growing number of organizations and building programs specify GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified® and GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certified products as an easy, no cost approach towards creating healthy indoor environments. Some of the more recent specifications include:

  • GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certification qualifies for the Indoor Environmental Quality Volatile Organic Compounds Flooring Points within the Australian Green Star Sustainable Building Program by the Green Building Council of Australia. The credits require that flooring products have minimal total VOC (TVOC) emissions.
  • The Good Environmental Choice Australia’s Floor Coverings Standard specifies GREENGUARD Certification as a way to achieve their TVOC emission criteria. This Australian Ecolabel Program has a requirement that floor coverings do not produce total VOC emissions greater than 0.5 mg/m3. Additionally, GREENGUARD Children & Schools helps achieve the restricted substances criteria for insulation.
  • HOK specifies GREENGUARD Certified furniture for their many regional offices.
  • The Home Builders Association of New Mexico specifies GREENGUARD Certified wallcoverings, paints and coatings.
  • HSBC Bank specified GREENGUARD Certified furniture for its Mexico headquarters.
  • Simmons College School of Management and Academic Building in Boston, MA specified GREENGUARD Certified furniture.
  • The EPA Indoor airPlus Construction Specification includes GREENGUARD Certification for paints and coatings.
  • Kaiser Permanente’s General Fabric Performance Criteria specifies GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified fabrics.
  • The American Lung Association Health House Builder Guidelines reference GREENGUARD as a resource for paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants.
  • The Healthy Schools Campaign’s Healthy High Performing School Buildings references GREENGUARD as a resource for all products.

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is specified or referenced in more than 280 standards / specifications / building programs around the world. This depth of references, across multiple types of products, demonstrates the importance of low-emitting products and indoor environmental quality. To receive a template specification for your programs, or to inquire about a particular specification, contact GEI at

Making the Grade: Healthy Schools Nurturing Healthy Kids

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) has updated its continuing education unit (CEU) course for Indoor Air Quality in K-12 Schools. New images, case studies and up-to-date statistics will arm attendees with the latest information on how and why designers and maintenance teams should strive for enhanced indoor environmental quality, including the health risks and pollutant effects that may be magnified in children. Participants will learn about sources of indoor air pollution and will discover strategies for creating healthier educational environments, as well as explore the cost and financial benefits associated with enhanced indoor air quality. To schedule a presentation, or for more information on all of the CEUs offered by GEI, email, or call 800.427.9681.


The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is available and utilized as an indoor air quality expert and resource by a variety of publications. This year, like in previous years, GREENGUARD partnered with Environmental Design + Construction to provide an indoor air quality supplement to ED+C’s August issue. The supplement focuses on the importance of incorporating indoor air quality when remodeling or renovating an indoor environment. Visit to learn about all elements that need to be considered when renovating with good indoor air quality in mind.

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Mark Bishop
Deputy Director of Healthy Schools Campaign

Mark Bishop began working on school environmental health issues in 1995 at the American Lung Association of Eastern Missouri as director of Environmental Programs. At the ALAEM, Mark directed state-wide environmental health education campaigns and policy initiatives. At HSC, Mark was instrumental in bringing the Green Clean Schools Act to Illinois, now the second state in the nation to require green cleaning in schools as well as passage of the Green Schools Construction Act of 2007. He worked closely on the development of guidance documents such as HSC’s Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools and Resource Guide for Healthy, High-Performing Schools.


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Ask the Expert
Changing the Way We Clean America’s Schools

More and more school leaders are recognizing the benefits of green cleaning, especially in connection to student health and readiness to learn. The states of Illinois, Maine, Missouri and New York have laws in place requiring or encouraging green cleaning in schools, and legislators in four more states—Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada and Hawaii—all passed green clean schools legislation this year. Countless other schools and districts have made the switch to green cleaning without formally adopting policies to require it.

Schools are an especially important place to focus on green cleaning because exposure to traditional cleaning chemicals can be much more harmful to children than to adults. Children’s immune systems—like all their organ systems—are more vulnerable because they are still developing. Children also eat, drink, and breathe proportionately more than adults, and have behaviors that lead to greater chemical exposures: sitting on the floor, resting their heads on the desk or putting objects in their mouths.

In addition to possible long-term effects of chemical exposures to developing systems, traditional cleaning chemicals can have immediate health effects for children. Most commonly, exposures can trigger asthma attacks in the more than 17 percent of American children who suffer from asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of school absence due to chronic disease in American schools, accounting for more than 10 million missed school days per year.

The benefits of green cleaning extend throughout the school and beyond, protecting the health of custodial staff, increasing the lifespan of facilities, and preserving the environment.

As a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to making schools healthy places to learn and work, Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) promotes green cleaning by providing resources to school staff and promoting policy that makes green cleaning the norm in schools. HSC provides The Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools to give school decision-makers everything they need to transition to green cleaning. To learn more or order your free copy of the Quick & Easy Guide, visit

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Sustainability News
The Relationship between Health and Sustainability

In its most common definition, sustainability implies a balance between environmental, social and economic dimensions to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development). Sustainability describes the current and future assurance of human wellbeing and prosperity, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world, the responsible use of its limited resources and on healthy indoor environments that will not expose inhabitants to hazardous pollutants. Sustainability implies a constant focus on human health and wellbeing. Any approach towards more sustainable lifestyles, buildings or products must address potential human exposure to pollutants and chemicals and related health effects.

Most of our exposure to environmental pollutants occurs indoors through the air we breathe and comes from activities, products and materials we use every day. The air in our homes, schools and offices typically contains levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) significantly higher than those measured outdoors. According to the Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies conducted by the EPA and other research teams, the health risks we face from poor indoor air quality is considered far greater than other risk factors evaluated in these TEAM studies including exposure to hazardous waste sites and outdoor air pollution. This means the very places we traditionally consider most safe paradoxically expose us to the greatest amounts of potentially hazardous pollutants.

Ample evidence exists that humans can be harmed by many of the chemicals to which we are exposed. Therefore, eliminating the sources of these pollutants so as to significantly reduce human exposure should be the primary sustainability objective. Given the vast number of different VOCs measured in indoor environments and the constant discovery of new potentially harmful compounds, it seems prudent to focus on reducing overall chemical exposure in addition to limiting exposure to individual chemicals with known health hazards. This precautionary approach attempts to prevent harm in the first place rather than waiting until a pollutant is found to be hazardous and the resulting public health effects are assessed. GREENGUARD Certification takes into account stringent limits for individual hazardous VOCs such as formaldehyde as well as including requirements for total VOC emissions as a precautionary measure.

Source control and a precautionary approach are inherent to sustainability. GREENGUARD Certification provides consumers and specifying professionals with the resource to find products with low VOC emissions. For more information on GREENGUARD’s requirements, please visit, or email

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Tip of the Month
School Art Supplies

Art supplies and dry erase markers are some of the many sources for VOCs and other hazardous pollutants in schools. Fortunately, there are now products in the market that feature low odor, non-toxic formulations. However, none of these are third-party certified or independently verified to be safe. In lieu of third-party certification, we offer the following guidance. Only purchase and use products that meet ASTM standard D 4236; as a minimum this requires manufacturers to label products if chemicals are present that can present chronic health risks to users. In addition, there are low odor markers available that employ specially formulated inks. Most of these markers contain alcohol or ketones in place of other aromatic solvents. Also, choose markers without fragrance, since fragrance means added chemicals and encourages children to smell the markers or mark themselves!

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Recently Certified Manufacturers

GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®




Vitra Systems



GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certified


MechoShade System, Inc.


Sheenmax Ent. Ltd.

Sheenmax Ent. Ltd. offers GREENGUARD Certified office chairs. Based out of Shunde, Guangdong, China, Sheenmax focuses on producing high quality, low cost office chairs that serve the needs of the office.


Source International

Source International offers GREENGUARD Certified contract seating products. Based out of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Source International has been designing and manufacturing seating for architecturally inspired commercial and institutional environments for more than 25 years.


More certified manufacturers

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GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
2211 Newmarket Parkway, Ste 110
Marietta, GA 30067

Continuing Education

GEI is proud to be a recognized USGBC Education Provider and provides numerous accredited Continuing Education Courses related to indoor air quality principles, including the following:

Indoor Air Quality and Healing Environments (New!)
Credits: AIA (1LU), IDCEC (0.1 CEU), USGBC

Healthy Indoor Air by Design
Credits: AIA (1LU), IDCEC (0.1 CEU), CSI (1-ECH), USGBC

Clearing the Air on IAQ: Making Sense of IAQ Standards and IEQ Requirements
Credits: AIA (1LU), IDCEC (0.1 CEU), CSI (1-ECH)

Building Blocks for Healthy Indoor Air
Credits: AIA (1LU), IDCEC (0.1CEU), USGBC

Design to Prevent the Damaging Effects of Mold
Credits: AIA (1LU), CSI (1-ECH)

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©2009 GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. All rights reserved.