Require and install air filtration systems in all SFUSD public schools.
Require and install air filtration systems in all SFUSD public schools.
To whom it may concern,
I wanted to share with you that there are SFUSD schools that do not have air filtration systems. This is concerning. Why? Because SFUSD schools had been open when health alerts said the AQI was RED, which means that the air is "Unhealthy." As per airnow.gov the AQI of RED describes a scenario where "Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects." This has been true for many.
If children are going to be going to school with "unhealthy" air quality, then schools should have air filtration systems. Having air filtration systems can provide many benefits.
Here are some of them:
- Provide cleaner air, and a healthier, more comfortable learning environment, especially for continued education when outside air quality is less than okay
- Help neutralize or prevent issues like the spreading of allergens; pollen, mold spores, and even of some airborne pathogens
- Better accommodate especially vulnerable children and adults who suffer from asthma and possibly other respiratory issues, as well as people who suffer allergies
- Make schools safer
- Promote physical, psychological, and emotional well-being
- Improve academic performance
- Save in terms of losses and costs in health, insurance, and legal expenses and missed work/loss of earnings, and save lives which is priceless
- Practice good ethics and have a better conscience
- Grant more peace of mind knowing we chose all of the above
Again, as some of you may know, SFUSD schools were open for student attendance, using the outdoor activity guidelines from the EPA which state for RED AQI when the air is unhealthy:
"For all outdoor activities, take more breaks and do less intense activities.
Consider moving longer or more intense activities indoors or rescheduling them to another
day or time.
Watch for symptoms and take action as needed.*
Students with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and keep their quick-relief
The SFUSD home page (http://www.sfusd.edu provides a link to the EPA guidelines in a PDF which can be downloaded at:
It should be noted that both the PDF and the SFUSD website both mention air filtration inside buildings as preferable with SFUSD providing a link to "Find public facilities with filtered air," which links to:
and the EPA PDF stating the following in a section titled Questions and Answers:
"If students stay inside because of unhealthy outdoor air quality, can they still be active?
It depends on which pollutant is causing the problem:
Ozone pollution: If windows are closed, the amount of ozone should be much lower indoors, so it is OK to keep
Particle pollution: If the building has a forced air heating or cooling system that filters out particles then the amount of particle pollution should be lower indoors, and it is OK to keep students moving. It is important that the particle filtration system is installed properly and well maintained."
So if particle pollution is the cause of unhealthy air then it is OK to move physical activities inside IF there is a properly installed and maintained air filtration system to filter out particles.
Some San Francisco public libraries and museums have air filtration and are suggested by City notifications. Hospitals should have air filtration as well. If these locations that serve or are open to the public have air filtration, then shouldn't the schools which serve one of the most vulnerable groups of our population, our children, have air filtration too?
If schools are required to provide clean water, shouldn't they be required to provide clean air as well?
Children, faculty, and volunteers (who are also youth sometimes) spend much of their day at school; around 6 hours. Including after school programs and commute that can be up 9 hours at school and easily 10 hours not at home. Even 6 hours at school without air filtration, without clean air or air that is much cleaner than outside, is a lot of exposure. Sometimes outdoor air that gets trapped indoors can be worse than outdoor air too. This is especially true without air filtration systems to filter indoor air.
It was known that in SFUSD classrooms, it has smelled like the unhealthy outdoor air, which includes the smell of the smoke. We know cigarette smoke can cause asthma attacks, which is why schools are declared smoke free zones, but when the school is filled with smoke from fires, they should have means to really be smoke free zones. After all, we don't know how many or what kind of toxic or cancer causing chemicals are being released into the air from the fires in the smoke and air pollution we see, taste, smell, and feel. We know that our children and us are breathing it in. We do know that cigarette smoke damages lungs, by obstructing, inflaming, and scarring them. This unhealthy air could be doing the same thing.
The questions and answers section of the EPA PDF continues:
"What physical activities can students do inside?
Encourage indoor activities that keep all students moving. Plan activities that include aerobic exercise as well as muscle and bone strengthening components (e.g., jumping, skipping, sit-ups, pushups). If a gymnasium or open space is accessible, promote activities that use equipment, such as cones, hula hoops, and sports balls. If restricted to the classroom, encourage students to come up with fun ways to get everyone moving (e.g., act out action words from a story). Teachers and recess supervisors can work with PE teachers to identify additional indoor activities."
The PDF sports the logo of the USA Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.
So if your kids are commuting to school and if they are wearing properly fitting N95 masks, and if their school has air filtration or not doing aerobic activities as described above, and have an asthma action plan, then it should be OK.
The problem is I have seen school windows open after kids are brought to school during AQI of RED, and N95 masks don't fit a lot of children with those children having to commute sometimes by bus and walking, or as kids do, running, especially at school because it is natural for kids to be active like that.
Those are a lot of IFs and conditional statements, which if you give a call to a school might find are not met, as we have found out that some schools do not have air filtration systems.
If schools are open during active fires with vast regions suffering RED level AQI, or unhealthy air that is noted to likely begin symptoms for all groups of people, then such schools should have indoor air filtration systems.
Otherwise, do not require attendance, or just close the schools, as other school districts have done.
Currently, the air quality index is at PURPLE, and is "VERY UNHEALTHY" FOR ALL groups, not just for sensitive groups of people. This petition has been signed by over 300 people as of now. Thank you all for supporting this petition so far. Please share this petition and discussion of this issue so that more people can have the opportunity to support our effort.
Schools have been open at RED AQI levels and some elementary school students have went outdoors to go on field trips when the air quality has been at the RED to PURPLE levels. The air has been bad even in SFUSD classrooms. These children are exposed, and field trips should be rescheduled or canceled in the interim. Field trips are canceled or rescheduled for bad weather, so why not now when the AQI is RED/PURPLE?
Again, SFUSD schools are closed as of November 16th, 2018, but the fact that schools have been open despite the visibly and palpably unhealthy air along with AQI knowingly being at the RED level, has been complained about and rightfully so considering schools do not even have air filtration systems. The AQI quickly worsened from RED to PURPLE and even MAROON in some areas. If kids are in school or out on field trips when these changes happen, which can happen so fast, it is more interrupting/exposing to send kids home rather than close schools outright. Rather than playing it out by ear we should regard these bad air issues with a "Better safe than sorry" mindset for our kids. If you can see, smell, and feel that the air is bad, it's probably bad. This is in addition to measured RED AQI levels being made available to the public to know.
True, it is not the first time our schools, our city, and indeed our state, has been faced with such circumstances, but we as a City should not treat it as we have. We have been through it so should learn from it.
Parents can only decide for their own child whether to send them to school or not if school is open, but not all families understand the risks or measures to take for their health, just that the air is not as good as normal. Some people are wearing sick masks one would use at a doctor's appointment, but those don't protect against the risks posed by air particles in this bad air. It provides a false sense of security or protection while outdoors. AQI is a new term for me until relatively recently as well, and even I don't understand all the science, like what the lungs and airways do with the particles in them to recover and what it means longterm. Or even what kind of particles are we breathing in; are there any from buildings, asbestos, or others? I just know it's bad enough. There are language, outreach, and other barriers. Closing schools citing health risks would decide for families whether kids should go to school or not
We need this petition and other PROACTIVE measures in place to deal with these issues. Without our voice, it might not be done, or even considered. We need to tell leadership what we want or need.
If multiple kids in a classroom have issues at once, including emergencies, teachers even with chaperones might not be able deal with it, especially if inhalers that are left with the school are not brought on the field trips. A lot of times, it is just a teacher and maybe an assistant with no parent volunteers in the classrooms of over 20 kids each, and again the bad air has entered the classrooms and is noticeable. At these levels all groups are likely to be affected.
AQI has reached past 200, and past 300 in some areas of the city, with those numbers expected to rise. For reference, starting at 201 that is PURPLE or "VERY UNHEALTHY" air quality levels for all groups of people; past 300 is MAROON, or "HAZARDOUS." Please stay safe and help others to do the same by sharing this information.
It is best to stay indoors in locations that have air filtration systems to filter out the harmful particles, and to close windows and doors and similar sources allowing entry of very unhealthy air. It is advised that if you absolutely must go outside in these conditions, you should wear N95, N100, P100, etc. masks as fits the necessary requirements for the level/type of air particle pollution, however it is very easy to misuse and not have a proper fit, especially without training, so outside activity is discouraged. Children's sizes or sizes for people with smaller faces are not as common. The masks must be secured to fit properly. It has been suggested that they last around 8 hours, but it depends on manufacture, usage, and air quality. If it becomes harder to breathe it is likely not working enough anymore. Some people claim that it is hard to breathe even with new masks. Some tips people have shared which may or may not help in your personal situation is to shape/secure the masks to fit and seal with tape. I do not personally know how effective this is, but other people have done this.
I am looking into options myself. BUT the most obvious thing I have noticed from coming indoors as I smelled the fire burning smell through my mask, is the vast difference in breathable air quality upon getting back indoors to my home with a True HEPA air filter. It was much more clearer, comfortable and easier to breathe than being outdoors even with a mask. Unfortunately our home has spaces where outdoor air can enter even with windows and doors closed, BUT with an air filter it is still noticeably more comfortable to breathe than outdoor air to me in my situation. I do not have a device to measure my indoor air quality, so don't know how exposed I am but the advisories and my experience suggest that staying indoors is better if you can prevent the very unhealthy air from entering your home and have an air filter to clean the air already indoors.
Some people have used devices as mentioned to measure their indoor air quality finding high amounts of particles which they noted to be at the RED level in some parts of their home even indoors. I have heard that such device readings can also be influenced by activities like cooking.
Please keep these things in mind, but use your best judgement, common sense, and ask for help from members in your community whether in person, online, or over the phone. And yes, that includes consulting your professional health care provider. Keep up to date on developments.
I have purchased my N95 masks at local hardware stores and big department/warehouse stores like Home Depot in the past. I have also bought them online from Amazon.com, but expect to wait for shipping vs buying local. I am not affiliated with any of these agencies, media outlets, or businesses and do not get paid at all by them. I just hope you find the best solutions for you and those you care about as I try to do the same.
Please continue to share this petition. In times like these or other disasters or emergencies, having schools able to function as clean air centers is critical, as schools are often gathering places and emergency community shelters. Having air filtration to provide clean air would have helped to make that possible in this time and could help in the future. This effort can only be possible with your support. Thank you all. Stay safe.