Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.1 Ventilation, Heating, Cooling, and Hot Water Ensuring Access to Fresh Air Indoors

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/25/2016.


As much fresh outdoor air as possible should be provided in rooms occupied by children. Screened windows should be opened whenever weather and the outdoor air quality permits or when children are out of the room (1). When windows are not kept open, rooms should be ventilated, as specified in Standards The specified rates at which outdoor air must be supplied to each room within the facility range from fifteen to sixty cubic feet per minute per person (cfm/p). The rate depends on the activities that normally occur in that room. Indoor air should be kept as free from unnecessary chemicals as possible, including those emitted from air fresheners and other fragrances, cleaning products containing chemicals, aerosol sprays, and some furnishings.


The health and well-being of both the staff and the children can be greatly affected by indoor air quality. The air people breathe inside a building is contaminated with micorbes shared among occupants, chemicals emitted from common consumer products and furnishings, and migration of polluted outdoor air into the facility. Sometimes the indoor air is more polluted than the outdoor air.


Air quality significantly impacts people's health. The health impacts from exposure to air pollution (indoor and outdoor) can include: decreased lung function, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, learning and behavioral disabilities, and even some types of cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their organ systems (respiratory, central nervous system, etc.) are still developing and they also breathe in more air relative to their weight than adults do. Indoor air pollution is often greater than outdoor levels of air pollution due to a general lack of adequate air filtration and ventilation, and lingering and build up of air contaminants emitted from certain long-term furnishings (2). The presence of dirt, moisture, and warmth encourages the growth of mold and other contaminants, which can trigger allergic reactions and asthma (3). Children who spend long hours breathing contaminated or polluted indoor air are more likely to develop respiratory problems, allergies, and asthma (2,4,5). 


Although insultation of a building is important in reducing heating or cooling costs, it is unwise to try to seal the building completely. Air circulation is essential to clear infectious disease agents, odors, and toxic substances in the air. Levels of carbon dioxide are an indicator of the quality of ventilation. Air circulation can be adjusted by a properly installed and adjusted heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and cooling (HVAC) system as well as by using fans and open windows. 

For further information on air quality and on ventilation standards related to type of room use, contact the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Public Information Center, the American Gas Association (AGA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Lung Association (ALA), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Safe Building Alliance (SBA).

For child care, ANSI/ASHRAE 62.1-2007 calls for 10 cfm/person plus 0.18 cfm/sq.ft. of space. ANSI/ASHRAE 62-1989 or ASHRAE Standard 55-2007 is information on Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.

Qualified engineers can ensure heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems are functioning properly and that applicable standards are being met. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Website ( includes the qualifications required of its members and the location of the local ASHRAE chapter. The contractor who services the child care HVAC system should provide evidence of successful completion of ASHRAE or comparable courses. Caregivers/teachers should understand enough about codes and standards to be sure the facility’s building is a healthful place to be.

Indoor air quality is important to all children and early care and education staff. A checklist from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, How Asthma Friendly is your Child Care Setting? (available at, can help caregivers/teachers create a more asthma-friendly environment.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Playing Outdoors Protection from Air Pollution While Children Are Outside Indoor Temperature and Humidity Heating and Ventilation Equipment Inspection and Maintenance Ventilation When Using Art Materials Ventilation of Recently Carpeted or Paneled Areas Ventilation to Control Odors Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  1. American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), American Institute of Architects, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, U.S. Green Building Council, U.S. Department of Energy. 2008. Advanced energy design guide for K-12 school buildings, 148. Atlanta, GA: ASHRAE.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. IAQ tools for schools program.
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2008. Care for your air: A guide to indoor air quality. Washington, DC: EPA.
  4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2010. The inside story: A guide to indoor air quality.
  5. American Lung Association, American Lung Association, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 1994. Indoor air pollution: An introduction for health professionals. Cincinnati: EPA National Service Center for Environmental Publications.
  6. Daneault, S., M. Beusoleil, K. Messing. 1992. Air quality during the winter in Quebec day-care centers.Am J Public Health 82:432-34.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/25/2016.