Quebec’s new education minister is focusing his efforts on air quality in schools. Bernard Drainville says he’s frustrated with the lack of improvement in classrooms that were a known problem last year.
The air quality levels in 724 of Quebec’s 68,548 classrooms exceeded the threshold of 1,500 parts per million (ppm) between Sept. 5 and Oct. 28.
“That’s not acceptable for us, so what I’m saying to the parents is that we’re working very hard for these 724 classrooms to come under the level of 1,500 ppm,” said Drainville.
The government says it’s monitoring these classrooms. They’ve taken measures such as installing air exchangers and repairing windows to bring air quality levels under control.
“The COVID crisis taught us that if we want to reduce the risks of transmission, we need to ensure that there’s proper ventilation,” said Drainville.
Teacher Mitch Lafon knows the importance of adequate air quality. In September his classroom carbon dioxide reader hit 1,800 ppm.
Lafon says this is where he caught COVID-19. He’s been battling long COVID ever since.
“I go to bed most nights thinking I’m not waking up. It is the most debilitating disease you can have,” said Lafon.
Lafon says the government should have known that poor air quality is connected to health issues. It’s outlined in a Vérificateur Général Du Québec 2012 report on air quality in elementary schools.
Premier François Legault even slammed the Partis Québécois government for the report’s findings at the time.
“I think it’s ironic that our minister, who was in the government when a report was made, suddenly is the champion. Where was he for a decade?” asked Lafon.
Across Quebec, 120,000 students were home sick this week. Epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos says that number could drop when air quality in schools is improved.
“If we start cleaning our air. We’re probably going to have fewer COVID outbreaks and flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) outbreaks,” Labos told Global News.
In the meantime, he suggests Quebec buys air purifiers. Instead, Drainville says classroom windows might have to stay open again this winter.
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