NYS School Environmental Health Program: Topics


One in ten children in New York State have asthma, affecting nearly half a million students (Asthma Surveillance Summary Report). These children can be affected by poor environmental conditions that could worsen asthma and cause discomfort during the school day. Poor environmental health in the school can also affect adults with asthma and can trigger their symptoms as well. Schools can contain numerous sources of potential irritants and asthma triggers that can impact students and staff. Knowing how to properly manage asthma and how to maintain an environment that limits irritants and triggers are effective ways to improve learning and working conditions. On this page you will find many resources about asthma and the school environment.

  • Asthma Action Plan and Informational Materials. Information compiled by the NYSDOH on having an asthma action plan, knowing asthma triggers, and managing asthma.
  • How Asthma Friendly Is Your School? This brief checklist created by the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program can help you get an idea of your school’s environmental health and if you are taking the precautionary steps to eliminate or reduce asthma triggers.
  • Lungtropolis. This interactive website has two different portals, a games zone for kids to learn about asthma while having fun, and a parent’s zone with helpful tips for managing asthma at home.
  • Managing Asthma in the School Environment. Information from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on how to take action to manage asthma in the school environment, develop an asthma management plan, and reduce environmental asthma triggers.
  • Open Airways For Schools. This program created by the American Lung Association is aimed to help elementary school children better manage their own asthma. The program also has a variety of information for other people to learn about asthma and how it affects people who suffer from it.
  • Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative. This initiative from the American Lung Association  provides asthma management tools and resources for schools and communities.
  • Work-Related Asthma in the Educational Services Industry. A journal article abstract published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) characterizing work-related asthma (WRA) cases in the educational services industry that were identified by state-based occupational disease surveillance systems in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey.
  • Work-Related Asthma: Recognition and Diagnosis. This "Public Health Live!" episode from the Center for Public Health Continuing Education at University at Albany’s School of Public Health introduces some common triggers to look out for in the workplace, methods to reduce exposure and who you should talk to if experiencing these symptoms.
  • Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools. It is important for students to receive the recommended 60 minutes per day of physical activity; this guidance tool created by the CDC with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the School Flag Program can help you determine if your students should exercise indoors or outdoors.
  • Strategies for Addressing Asthma in Schools. A compilation by the CDC of information and resources for implementing programs in schools to address asthma and improve overall student health.
  • Asthma Awareness Toolkit. Learn more from the CDC about how to raise awareness for asthma.
  • What is Asthma? This Allergy & Asthma Network webpage provides helpful information on types of asthma, common symptoms and triggers, myths, asthma in relation to exercise and much more.
  • Athletes and Asthma: The Community Coach’s Role. This 30-minute online educational program from the Minnesota Department of Health focuses on what coaches, referees, and physical education teachers should know about asthma.
  • Steps to Follow for an Asthma Attack in the School Setting. A 3-step plan for responding to an asthma attack in the school setting, as outlined by the NYSDOH.
  • Asthma Resources for School and Childcare Providers. Compilation of CDC, government, and nongovernment resources for school personnel planning or maintaining an asthma management program.

Chemical & Environmental Hazards

Chemicals in the school environment can be a problem due to improper storage or labeling, misuse, and accidental or unnoticed spills. Exposure to these chemicals and hazards can be very serious, especially for children. Becoming educated on how to manage chemicals in schools is crucial for a healthy environment. Below, you will find many resources and actions on chemical and environmental contaminant hazards in the school environment.

Specific Topics

General Chemical Management

Cleaning & Maintenance

Dirt, dust, and spills in the school environment can exacerbate allergies and illness in occupants. New York State has a Green Cleaning Law that mandates use of environmentally sensitive (green) cleaning products in elementary and secondary schools. Proper maintenance of building systems and spaces may prolong their useful life, reduce unnecessary expenses, and improve indoor air quality. Resources on cleaning and maintenance for better school environmental health are listed below.

Climate Action

Conserving energy is important for a school’s efficiency and safety. It can also result in cost savings. Below are resources that will help you assess and improve your school’s efficiency while making sound financial decisions.

Health and Safety Committees

Health and Safety Committees are required by law for New York State public schools. Ideally, nonpublic schools also create these committees. Fully developed and efficiently functioning Health and Safety Committees are integral to responding to and preventing environmental health concerns in schools.

Indoor Air Quality

School indoor environments can include a number of problems that can impact health, attendance, and performance. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is affected by several factors, many of them directly related to building operations and maintenance. Problems leading to poor IAQ include inadequate ventilation, intrusion of outdoor pollutants into the building, mold from inadequate moisture control, allergens in dust and from rodents and cockroaches, inadequate control of chemical contamination, and improper cleaning practices. Resources focusing on indoor air are listed below.

Integrated Pest Management & Pesticide Issues

Pests in schools (e.g., cockroaches, mice) leave droppings and dander in the building, which can trigger asthma and respiratory allergies. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic and cost effective way of addressing pests that can be applied to indoor and outdoor school environments. Resources pertaining to pesticide issues and IPM are listed below.

Laws, Regulations & Guidance

New York State has laws and regulations that schools should be following to assist in creating healthy school environments.

Mold & Moisture

Mold is one of the most commonly reported environmental health issues in New York State schools. Mold issues arise when buildings or materials in buildings have excess moisture. It can cause adverse health effects such as sinus congestion, fatigue, headaches, and sore throat, all of which can negatively impact learning and working. Taking swift action to control mold and moisture will significantly improve overall environmental health. On this page you will find resources with information and best practices for mold and moisture for schools.


Construction/Renovation/School Siting

Proper school siting is a proactive way to foster a healthy school environment. To reduce the potential for environmental health problems in schools and possible negative health impacts for students and school professionals, school districts must adhere to all applicable requirements and should also consider the kinds of guidance provided in the links below. Schools should also implement measures to keep occupant health a priority when performing renovations or other construction on existing buildings. Resources regarding school siting, construction, and renovations pertaining to school environmental health are listed below.

Transportation/Vehicle Idling

Vehicle exhaust contains air pollutants that can cause adverse health effects. Children's lungs are developing and exposure to these pollutants increases the risk of respiratory problems, including asthma, as well as other adverse health effects. NYS laws and regulations that address this issue will help reduce pollutants that can contaminate indoor and outdoor air at schools.


Good ventilation is vital to achieving good indoor air quality. Poor ventilation can exacerbate problems caused by inadequate cleaning, chemical fumes from cleaning supplies or classroom materials, pest droppings and dander, and mold/mildew, which can affect the health of occupants in the school. Becoming educated on best practices related to ventilation can lead to actions that improve a school's environmental health. On this page you will find resources and actions for good ventilation in the school environment.

Water Quality

Clean and safe drinking water should be provided at all schools to prevent any potential threat to the development of students. There are many contaminants that can be found in water, such as lead, so it is imperative that your school properly test the water on a regular basis. Below you will find resources for testing school drinking water for lead.

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