Checking A Change In The Air At Schools The Upper Moreland District Found Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels At Two Schools. Ventilation Is Being Upgraded.

Posted: April 28, 1996

UPPER MORELAND — The Upper Moreland School District is trying to clear the air.

Although tests now show there is no cause for alarm, carbon dioxide levels recently were marginally elevated in two district buildings - Upper Moreland High School and Cold Spring Elementary School - when compared to a comfort-range standard set by a national engineering society.

Superintendent Paul Beck said last week that ventilation systems in the district's schools, some of which are nearly 45 years old, would be upgraded to include carbon dioxide sensors with automatic fresh-air dampers.

Concerns about ventilation prompted a series of tests earlier this year conducted by JACA Corp., a Fort Washington environmental engineering and consulting firm, which cited slightly elevated carbon dioxide levels at the two schools.

The levels were compared against a standard established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which has established a carbon dioxide level of 1,000 parts per million as a comfortable fresh-air indicator.

According to Anthony Andreula of Marriott School Services, which has a contract with Upper Moreland, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set a standard of 10,000 parts per million. Andreula said air quality had improved at Cold Spring between the initial round of tests in December and January and a second round in March. Results of a third round were not yet available.

The air sampling included direct readings of temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds. The buildings also were sampled for airborne bacteria, mold and fungi.

In some areas where is there is more student activity, such as gymnasiums and cafeterias, a higher carbon-dioxide level is expected, Andreula said.

In the first round of testing at Cold Spring, carbon dioxide exceeded 1,000 parts per million in two rooms and the gymnasium, which measured 1,279 ppm. In the second round of testing, levels exceeded the standard in only one room and the gymnasium, where the measurement had fallen to 1,052 ppm.

The first round of tests at the high school showed three areas of concern, all classrooms. The highest was in Room 809, which measured 1,781 ppm. In the March testing, one classroom and the gymnasium exceeded the standard. The level in the gym measured 1,241 ppm.

The company said in its report to school officials that the elevated carbon dioxide levels in those two areas warranted investigating the ventilating systems.

Carbon dioxide levels in Upper Moreland Middle School and Round Meadow Elementary School were not deemed high enough to warrant investigating the ventilating systems. At Round Meadow, however, one area was recommended for inclusion on the next round of tests: Room 28. The ventilation upgrade will coincide with an effort to revamp other air-quality programs in the district, Andreula said. A pest-management system introduced in July shuns insecticide in favor of a bait-and-catch method. The district also is using environmentally safe fertilizer on the grounds, he said.

Andreula said the district is taking steps to make sure ``everything is taken care of, even if something is marginal.''

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