DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, March 20, 2015. Students at Level 5 classroom in Al Manar Quran Study Center. Level 5 is the highest in the center, where excelling students from all age groups are brought together.  Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National   *** Local Caption ***  RM_20150320_QURAN_012.jpg
A classroom. Reem Mohammed / The National 

Poor air quality in schools putting children's health at risk, experts warn



Old buildings and inadequately maintained air-conditioning units are leading to poor air quality levels in schools across the UAE.

Experts warned outdated construction techniques combined with a lack of effective insulation was potentially putting children’s health at risk.

Other factors adding to the issue included some schools overusing chemical products to clean classrooms and hallways.

Poor air quality can lead to respiratory problems, with knock on implications for children’s attention spans and attendance rates.

“The old building stock is a problem not only in UAE but all over the GCC,” said Nada Chami, a senior manager at the French sustainable construction firm Saint-Gobain.

“Older buildings were constructed prior to air quality regulations, with 70 to 85 per cent of them not insulated effectively.

“This means their air tightness is poor which can allow pollutants to come through.”

Warnings over the UAE’s need to address air quality in schools came as architects, engineers and school management teams came together in Dubai to discuss ways to improve building design.

Experts from the Emirates Coalition for Green Schools, which advocates for more environmentally friendly classrooms, and the Emirates Green Building Council organised the one-day event.

Calling for a substantive government programme to upgrade old school buildings, Ms Chami argued it was critical new schools were given proper advice in terms of selecting suitable building materials.

She also said stronger enforcement measures were required to check air quality, ensuring schools were more focused on tackling the issue.

“Regulations are there but the implementation and enforcement of these is poor,” she said.

“Children are more sensitive to low indoor air quality. They are easily affected by anything that can pollute their respiratory system while teachers can also suffer.

“In some cases the ventilation systems [at schools] aren’t adequate and are not providing enough clean oxygen.

“If you don’t clean these systems they will have a bad impact. Sometimes, children also leave doors and windows open which can lead to poor air quality entering the building.”

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Read more:

Children 'at risk from poor quality of air in schools'

UAE students at risk from poorly maintained air-conditioning at schools

UAE ramps up efforts to tackle air pollution

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Hala Yousef, head of sustainability at MENA - Cundall, an international design consultancy, agreed that poor maintenance and cleaning practices was damaging air quality in schools.

She recommended that dependence on chemical cleaning agents be reduced, that air conditioning units were overhauled, and that staff had access to the latest and most effective vacuum cleaners.

“Cleaning the space is important,” she said. “I also really think we need regulations.

“We have more and more information available that shows the benefits of good air quality but more controls need to be implemented.

"Once it is on their [school's] agenda, they can tell their contractor who can increase ventilation and add a good filter.

“Existing schools should get a certain time to make these changes.”

Lora Shrake, director of the Emirates Green Building Council, also insisted schools needed to start measuring their air quality.

“By raising awareness we can emphasise the importance of retrofitting older buildings,” she said.

Some schools in the UAE, however, already have such checks in place.

Taaleem schools in Dubai said they conducted indoor air quality tests as a matter of routine.

“We are actively seeking collaboration with local universities to further enhance the research being conducted,” said Sam Truman​, head of projects and facilities at Taaleem Schools.

“This research, we anticipate, will lead to useable data that will enable schools to evaluate the effects of air quality on student performance and sickness.

"We will also seek to investigate, with the support of research universities, cost-effective solutions that could be made available to all schools in the UAE, not just our own.”

In 2012, a study of air quality in four government schools in the UAE found the quality to be poor.

The British University in Dubai study measured soot particles in classroom air and found extremely high levels.

While recommend guidelines suggested a maximum of 15 milligrams per metre cubed, the study found between 200mg and 250mg.

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Date Started: September 2018

Founders: Walid and Karim Dib

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Founders: Patrick Rogers, Lee McMahon, Arthur Guest, Ahmed Arif
Based: Dubai
Industry: LegalTech
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COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
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Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
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Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

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Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, he finished sixth in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200m butterfly final.

Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
Brought up in Abu Dhabi and represented the region in international rugby. When the Arabian Gulf team was broken up into its constituent nations, he opted to play for Scotland instead, and went to the Hong Kong Sevens.

Sophie Shams (England, rugby union)
The daughter of an English mother and Emirati father, Shams excelled at rugby in Dubai, then after attending university in the UK played for England at sevens.

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Director: Tim Mielants
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Watson, Eileen Walsh
Rating: 4/5

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COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
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Investors: Self, family and friends

How Islam's view of posthumous transplant surgery changed

Transplants from the deceased have been carried out in hospitals across the globe for decades, but in some countries in the Middle East, including the UAE, the practise was banned until relatively recently.

Opinion has been divided as to whether organ donations from a deceased person is permissible in Islam.

The body is viewed as sacred, during and after death, thus prohibiting cremation and tattoos.

One school of thought viewed the removal of organs after death as equally impermissible.

That view has largely changed, and among scholars and indeed many in society, to be seen as permissible to save another life.

Juliot Vinolia’s checklist for adopting alternate-day fasting

-      Don’t do it more than once in three days

-      Don’t go under 700 calories on fasting days

-      Ensure there is sufficient water intake, as the body can go in dehydration mode

-      Ensure there is enough roughage (fibre) in the food on fasting days as well

-      Do not binge on processed or fatty foods on non-fasting days

-      Complement fasting with plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, seafood. Cut out processed meats and processed carbohydrates

-      Manage your sleep

-      People with existing gastric or mental health issues should avoid fasting

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  • 2nd Test India won by innings and 53 runs at Colombo
  • 3rd Test August 12-16 at Pallekele
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