Improving School Air Quality

Infection Mitigation

Improving School Air Quality

UV-C is an Overlooked Opportunity to Protect Students

Did you know that air quality impacts students’ health, concentration, attendance, and even academic performance? Indoor air quality (IAQ) plays a critical role in lowering the risk of infectious diseases, which seriously affects educational success. Yet, to date, only 7% of schools have embraced UV-C, a proven and trusted technology, according to a new report from the Center for Green Schools [1]. This report suggests that more schools could increase their use of clean air strategies such as UV-C.

UV-C is an underutilized safeguard that K-12 schools should consider adopting.

Proper ventilation is a challenge for many elementary and high schools. Ironically, the top barrier to implementing additional IAQ measures isn’t budget, but rather, installed HVAC systems are not designed to accept the latest infection mitigation recommendations; a joint U.S. Green Building Council/ASHRAE report found [2].

Schools are encouraged to increase outdoor air flow and switch to high-efficiency air filters, but that’s not always feasible with legacy systems. HVAC manufacturers and facility engineers are quick to caution that many aging air handling systems were never designed to function with the high airflow restrictions and static pressure commonly associated with MERV 13 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating.

Educational facilities struggling to adopt these recommendations are often in “extremely hot, cold, dry, or humid outdoor conditions,” [3] where it is costly to heat/cool outside air. Building supervisors might also have concerns about increased energy consumption and associated costs with raising room ventilation rates.

These challenges, however, can be overcome by a simple UV-C addition.

Both upper-room UV-C fixtures and in-duct UV systems use germicidal (253.7nm) energy to disinfect the air. The ultraviolet light inactivates harmful microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, and biological growth like mold. Moreover, high efficacy UV-C energy produces no hazardous chemicals, VOCs, ozone, or dangerous byproducts.

Despite the effectiveness of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), the report found that schools mainly rely on ventilation and filtration strategies.

  • Before the pandemic, no schools surveyed used upper-room UV-C fixtures, and just under 2.5% had adopted in-duct UV-C systems.
  • During the pandemic, UVGI adoption increased marginally to 4.7% for upper-room fixtures but stayed the same for in-duct UV-C applications [4].
This means almost 93% of surveyed schools have yet to try UVGI.

Beyond its effectiveness, UVGI has the benefit of reassuring educators that there is automatic disinfection in their vicinity. “Strong teacher support was also reported for deploying in-room air cleaners because they are tools that are visible in the classroom and provide a tangible sign that there is some air-cleaning happening in the room.” [5]

Furthermore, UV-C supports the recent Clean Air in Buildings Challenge under the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

Both in-duct and upper room UV meet EPA best practices to “optimize fresh air ventilation by bringing in and circulating clean outdoor air indoors” and “enhance air filtration and cleaning using the central HVAC system and in-room air-cleaning devices.” [6]

The takeaway is clear – UV-C is an incredible opportunity for schools to satisfy multiple concerns about air disinfection. This decades-old, scientifically validated technology is a powerful way to combat airborne pathogens.

[1] Bueno de Mesquita, Jacob & Chan, Wanyu & Heming, Anisa & Shannon, Caroline. (2022). Managing Air Quality During the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19. Retrieved from

[2] IBID., 1.

[3] IBID., 1.

[4] IBID., 1.

[5] IBID., 1.

[6] White House. (2022, March). Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Launches Effort to Improve Ventilation and Reduce the Spread of COVID-⁠19 in Buildings. Retrieved from

Published Jul. 5, 2022