Research by WECF Georgia and NCDC shows high levels of indoor air pollution in Georgian kindergartens

A small study by our office in Georgia and the NCDC  in kindergartens in Georgia found that children and their caregivers are exposed to elevated levels of particulate matter (PM) , with Georgia having one of the highest mortality rates from indoor air pollution (3.8%)  in the PAN European region.

The leading cause of high indoor pollution levels is the use of inefficient wood-burning stoves, on which nearly half of all kindergartens in Georgia still rely. In this study, kindergartens that use wood as their main source of heating have on average 2.4 times higher PM levels than those depending on central heating and natural gas.

Indoor air pollution

Indoor air is the air inside your house, school, office, or other enclosed environment. In Georgia, 1,900-2,900 people die each year because of indoor air pollution. It also can cause or worsen respiratory diseases, and effects one’s wellbeing and cognitive performance. On average, we spend up to 90% of our time indoors . (This refers to the average daily routine of someone before the pandemic.) In most cases, indoor air is usually much more polluted than the air outside. The pollution is caused by smoke from stoves, CO2 from breathing, chemical gases leaking from furniture and household items, mold, dust, lead, viruses, and other indoor sources. Particulate matter refers to any type of fine particle that can penetrate deep into the lungs. This is especially alarming for children’s health, as their lungs are still developing and they breathe in more air per kilogram of body mass than adults .

Studies have shown that exposure to particulate matter increases the death rate of COVID-19 by 11% as it weakens the lungs and makes them more susceptible to respiratory diseases.

The research

The study was conducted during the winter and spring seasons in 2020. Indoor air quality information was collected from 59 public kindergartens across nine municipalities and three regions of Georgia. These surveys touched on a range of topics related to indoor air quality, including each kindergarten’s ventilation practices, their level of awareness of indoor air pollution sources and their potential effects on health. Within this selected group of kindergartens, 20 recorded real-time levels of particulate matter (PM) pollution in one to three school week intervals with air quality sensors.

The results found that although most kindergartens did not voice any concerns about poor air quality conditions, most air sensor data revealed that children and staff were often exposed to unsafe levels of PM throughout the school day. Some kindergartens’ data never met safe or “normal” levels of exposure during their monitoring periods, highlighting the importance to take urgent action.

The single most important cause of such high pollution levels is the use of wood-burning stoves by about half of all kindergartens in Georgia. The kindergartens in the study using wood for heating purposes have on average a 2.4 times higher PM levels than those that rely on central heating and natural gas. The pollution levels vary greatly between days and kindergartens, which further underlines the need for a concentrated effort to continue research on this issue so that all the activities, materials, or practices contributing to such unstable and unhealthy pollution levels can be thoroughly investigated.

The study also revealed that the awareness of the kindergarten staff on indoor air quality management is low. Only half of the kindergartens uses an electric ventilator in the kitchen or bathroom. Although most kindergartens open windows regularly for ventilation, temperatures are not monitored and are suspected to be too high. 60% of the kindergartens do not take their children outside during the heating season, and only a fraction takes them outside two hours or more, as is recommended by the NCDC.


Our children are being exposed to insufficient air quality and immediate action is needed. Although further research is needed to help develop effective measures to combat air pollution, such as understanding various effects different sources of air pollution have on morbidity among children and adults, a lot can be done through proper management and education.

Currently, there are no legislation or exposure limits that exist in Georgia for air pollutants. Adoption of the EU guidelines on air pollution is foreseen within the Association Agreement and should be implemented as soon as possible, as well as an integration of indoor air pollution indicator(s) in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Kindergarten and households can take immediate actions to properly manage their indoor air quality. Some of the most important recommendations are:

  • Avoid using wood as your heating source/fuel, if possible
  • Ventilate several times a day by opening two opposite windows (cross-ventilation) for a few minutes at a time
  • Make sure that the indoor room temperature stays between 18 – 22 degrees °C; nights can be cooler
  • Let children play outside every day for two hours or more, even when it’s cold or wet (just dress them properly)!
  • Don’t have anyone burn fallen leaves or other waste around your buildings
  • Do not use chemicals inside your home such as aerosol sprays or strongly smelling toys and utilities

IF you use a wood-burning stove:

  • Only use dry firewood
  • Use an energy efficient stove which regulates the air flow
  • Install a deflector on your chimney to prevent smoke from entering the room during windy weather
  • Clean your chimney and stove at least annually to ensure a good airflow
  • NEVER, EVER burn plastic or other waste in your stove

You can download the study here in English, and here in Georgian (ქართული ვერსია).