Back to School: College Edition

During this time of year we hear about children going back to school and the kind of environment parents are sending their kids in to each day. Important topics include what the air and water quality are in schools, toxic school supplies, and asthma triggers. These are are critical players in children’s health, since they spend such a large amount of time in the classroom. But a another question would be what about college students?! Young adults under high stress often working one or more jobs in addition to a full class schedule are especially susceptible to physical stressors like dust, mold, and indoor poor water and air quality. So, why the lack of coverage for budding young professionals like myself?

While high risk groups like the elderly and children take first priority for obvious reasons, it is clear that audiences are often more receptive and empathetic to campaigns featuring a sick sweet old woman or an angelic child. Possibly, back to school health campaigns ignore the college student demographic because society has deemed us the stereotype of “the struggling college student”, society seeing us as already sort of broken down and “barely making it”. As a college student myself, I see and experience first hand student complaints. Some including “why does my skin always break out when I come back to the dorms after break?”, “does that look like mold to you?”, “the air in this building is always thick and muggy”, “why do I always get sick here?”, and “I don’t trust the water here, we need to get a filter”, just to name a few. While we may have a stigma of struggling financially, professionally, or even struggling to find ourselves, we should not be subject to damaging health effects of a harmful living space. One must keep in mind, many college campuses are essentially historical sites, built decades ago with outdated ventilation and water systems. So what can be done to bring attention to this?

In terms of quality there is often issues with publicly funded buildings, especially in the field of education where budget cuts are far too common. We must remember that back to school safety precautions should be inclusive to all students, faculty and staff having to endure potentially toxic conditions. One way to tackle this, which is very fitting for the season, is to elect public officials that value the education system and environmental progression, at least for the sake of public health. So let’s #GetOutTheVote to make sure our current students and future leaders are protected!

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