It’s that time of the year that kids hate — the beginning of the new school year. Parents have already (for the most part) done all the clothing shopping (cool fashions are a must), school supply shopping (in my area, high school kids now need two backpacks — a heavy duty one to carry all the heavy stuff to and from school, and a “string” backpack to carry stuff from class to class.), and have paid all their school fees (pay-to-play sports, band, extracurricular activities, etc.).

And the schools have been busy too — ramping up for not only that first day of school, but for the year. And so, parents everywhere drop their kids off on that dreaded first day (and every day thereafter) hoping their kids make good friends, learn something useful, and come home safely.

But safety isn’t only about security. It’s a health issue too. Let’s talk about indoor air quality.

Many school buildings across the country are old — 30 to 40 years old or older. Obviously there are building codes and requirements to help keep these structures sound. But there are a lot of inconsistencies in the codes. As usual, our friends at the Environmental Protection Agency leapt into action to help.

In 1995, EPA created a program called The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools (TfS), and established an entire program to help school administrators get prepared for the school year with regard to the health of their students and faculty.

The idea behind this program is to reduce exposures to indoor environmental contaminants in schools through the voluntary adoption of sound IAQ management. According to the EPA website, The IAQ TfS program is “a comprehensive resource to help schools maintain a healthy environment in school buildings by identifying, correcting, and preventing IAQ problems.”

In 1995, the EPA also introduced something called the IAQ TfS Action Kit — a tool kit of sorts, that provides guidelines and information to help them successfully implement the IAQ TfS program.

There was a time when the primary and secondary school market was considered a niche market. Today, with all the school renovation going on around the country, it’s a much bigger niche.

But how many of you are working in this niche? And how many of you are aware of the programs and the tools that EPA has created and made available? If you are working the niche and taking advantage of the EPA programs — excellent. If not, maybe take a look at the following web pages and see if there is a way you can get involved.

The EPA pages dedicated to IAQ TfS can be found here: www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/index.html. Information on the design tools they’ve created for school new construction projects can be found here: www.epa.gov/iaq/schooldesign.

There is also a national symposium hosted by the EPA where you can learn the latest happenings in this program nationwide. The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Symposium is being held December 6-8, 2007 in Washington, D.C. Learn more about it here: www.iaqsymposium.com. So it’s not only our kids going back to school.

By getting involved in this market, you can certainly bring more dollars to your bottom line. You will also help keep our kids safer and healthier. Now if I can only figure out these rules regarding string backpacks.