covid

Indoor Air Quality in the Time of Covid-19 2020 Year End Review

Indoor Air Quality in the time of Covid-19 2020 Year End Review 3

2020 has been a year of significant events in America. Our president was impeached. The stock market crashed. Wildfires ravaged parts of the west coast and murder hornets wreaked havoc on honeybee colonies. Civil rights protests continue alongside legal challenges to the results of our national election. And of course, COVID.

Of these trials, none have been more life-changing than Covid-19. The statistics are staggering:

Infections, Global: 77,557,000+
Deaths 1,707,000+

Infections, U.S.: 18,058,000+
Deaths 320,000+ (as of 12/23/20) (1)

At various locations around the country, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on citizens, businesses, and schools are in place due to the highly transmissible nature of this deadly virus. But some workers are expected to work, even during a pandemic. For example, medical personnel, essential office support, and health and wellness employees must be present while their businesses are open. In many areas, students and teachers need to be on school grounds or they risk loss-of-income or instruction. And patients need treatment.

Researchers know that the novel coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing, staying outdoors, and wearing face coverings are effective in preventing the spread.

Unfortunately, airflow is limited while indoors, and physical distancing is often not possible. And while the virus picks no favorites in whom it afflicts, some occupations are at higher risk than others, simply by the nature of what they do or the buildings they occupy.

Here is an overview of just some of the businesses we have supported during this past year and why they are vulnerable.

Hospitals & Medical Centers

For centuries, hospitals have worn the mantle of medical care for patients. But their mission to safeguard human life has been severely tested during the coronavirus outbreak as medical facilities are also places where pathogens can linger and spread.

The need for additional measures of protection have never been more important.

Patients and healthcare workers alike benefit from existing healthcare practices such as personal protective equipment and environmental control. But for the most aggressive infectious diseases, like Covid-19, additional measures such as portable air cleaners and negative pressure HEPA machines for patient isolation will make the difference between potentially lethal illness and health. (10)

College Housing & Common Areas

The U.S. Department of Education lists more than 4,000 academic institutions of higher learning (2) at which nearly 20 million students attend.

In addition to students, at every one of these schools there are hundreds – in some cases thousands – of workers, many of whom commute from other areas, widening the scope of transmissibility. And an alarming number of them are getting sick. With barely a month back at school, there were more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 reported from campuses across all 50 states. (2a). That was in September. The numbers have more than doubled since that time.

Containing the spread of viruses and other illnesses has always been a challenge on college campuses. Think how colds and flu thrive there – classrooms, residential housing, cafeterias – all of these locations are enclosed spaces that tend to be crowded, often with poor ventilation. Add to that the very nature of college social life – dorm and fraternity parties, clubs and team sporting events, college bars – plus the diminished judgment of many younger people, and germ-sharing becomes communal. Students living in residential housing are particularly vulnerable.

Dental Offices

The greatest risk of transmission is through aerosolization such as a cough or a sneeze. But in dental offices, germs can also spread during routine procedures and oral surgeries that generate their own aerosols. (3)

Dental aerosols are defined as the splatters, mists, and droplets created from the use of certain dental instruments. These fine sprays and particles include saliva, blood, plaque, and oral debris and can travel distances up to 20 feet. The use of high-speed equipment such as scalers and drills allow pathogens the opportunity to spread rapidly (3a), particularly during surgeries where oral emissions enter the breathing space of dental workers.

Fitness Centers & Locker Rooms

Pre-Covid, the most common thing athletes, coaches, and sports teams worried about in terms of clean air in their locker rooms was primarily focused on odor control. Then there was MRSA.

For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (4) plagued athletes from high school all the way up to the pros. But now, coronavirus (4a) poses an even greater threat. For athletic departments and professional sports teams across the nation, maintaining good health presents considerable challenges – ones that professional teams and athletic departments are now trying to conquer.

Nursing Homes

Presently, there are over 51 million Americans 65 and older in the United States in contrast to the over-195 million adults under age 65. And yet, older Americans make up 55% of all adults at-risk for serious complications if infected with Covid-19. As of December 1st, more than 100,000 US deaths from Covid-19 were linked to 28,000 senior care institutions. (5) While only 5% of the country’s cases have occurred in these types of facilities, nursing home residents represent 38% of Covid-19 deaths. Simply put, if you are an adult over the age of 65 and live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, your chance of becoming infected by Covid-19 and then dying from it, are higher than any other group in the country. Why are these populations more at risk?

Nursing homes – like many medical institutions – have long been breeding grounds for communicable diseases. Consider the communal nature of elder-care facilities. There is frequent physical contact between patients and staff, residents often share rooms, and many of them are shuttled back and forth between hospitals and doctor’s offices where germs run rampant. (5a) And while coronavirus is blind to age per se, it feeds on those with weak or compromised health profiles.

Offices

Office environments, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for germs. Office employees spend the majority of their waking hours during the week inside, sharing space with others. This creates an atmosphere ripe for germ-sharing. Consider the seasonal flu. As we all know, year after year, every American becomes a potential vector for the infection, every surface, a possible hot spot for transmission. If even one doorknob or computer keyboard has a transmissible bug, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that workspace in a matter of hours.

Common areas like meeting and break rooms, waiting areas, and exit and entryways (6) are examples of places where germ transmission is more likely and where social distancing needs to be enforced.

Schools

Poor indoor air quality in schools has been known to hamper student wellness even before Covid. In addition to communicable infections, pollutants such as molds, dusts, and fumes can negatively impact a student’s wellness, ability to concentrate, and classroom performance. (7)

Schools are vulnerable for a variety of reasons (7a). Schools tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces and children, even those who are young adults, are inclined to pack together tightly, with little to no thought given to personal space. Think: cafeterias at lunchtime and indoor spectator events viewed from bleachers. Think: crowded hallways and stairwells in between classes. Lastly, minors are more likely to cough and breathe in direct proximity to others and share food, drinks, and personal items.

Spas & Salons

Indoor Air Quality in spa and beauty salons has been a concern since the dawn of their opening. For hair shops, cancer-causing formaldehyde was enemy number one due to the toxic fumes emitted from perms, dyes, and hair-straightening treatments. (8a) For nail salons, it was the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in lacquers, adhesives, and polish removers that presented the most serious occupational health risk. (8) While those problems still exist, Covid-19 has become the greater concern.

The spread of infection in spas and salons is heightened because these types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces making social distancing difficult. Every spa table, sink, chair, and surface are possible hot spots for transmission. If even one hairbrush or cabinet knob has a communicable microbe, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that shop or salon days before someone shows symptoms.

What To Do

Obviously, cleaning and disinfecting are crucial. But COVID-19 transmission is more common by way of airborne respiratory droplets, meaning that the biggest risk of viral spread comes from sick people, not from objects. Staying at home is the best way to avoid contact.
But millions of workers, students, and medical patients need to leave their homes. How can one be sure that they are positioned for wellness rather than illness? The answer is clean air.

CDC recommended control measures for improving indoor air quality indicate that “elimination” is the most effective means of reducing transmission of Covid-19 and advocates the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners as an additional means of reducing viral spread.

Air cleaners with HEPA filtration are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out the impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective means of avoiding the spread of illness.

Our air cleaning and purification products not only remove fumes and odors from the source but when paired with our HEPA filtration systems, also remove up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our clean air specialists.

Presidential Executive Order: COVID-19 and Worker Protection

What this means for businesses regarding indoor air quality

Presidential Executive Order: Covid-19 and Worker Protection 1
On January 21, 2021, a Presidential Executive Order was signed regarding the policy of ensuring the health and safety of American workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (1)

Before this order was issued, OSHA developed a Covid-19 planning guide (2) to help businesses identify workplace risk levels and determine what measures were appropriate to implement.

The order states that the Federal government should take swift action to reduce Covid-19 transmission risk in the workplace. Section 2 of the order specifies that under the OSHA Act, revised guidelines will be given to employers and that coordination with state governments will be executed so as to ensure adequate protection against Covid-19 for all workers.

Specifically, the EO orders OSHA to:

1. Issue revised guidelines to employers regarding Covid-19 worker safety measures. Note: this is NOT a directive for OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards.
2. Consider whether new – but temporary – mask wearing requirements are needed.
3. Review OSHA enforcement efforts.
4. Launch a national program related to Covid-19 violations creating occupational risk.
5. Coordinate with states that have workplace safety plans to help ensure adequate worker protection.
6. Partner with US Department of Labor’s public affairs office and OSHA regional offices to create and implement a multilingual outreach campaign.

The White House set forth this order not just to underscore the importance of following existing OSHA regulations, but to reduce – if not eliminate – workplace risk of Covid-19 transmission.

What does this mean in terms of indoor air quality? It means that anything that could negatively affect worker health and safety – in the context of this current pandemic – should be addressed and remedied. Cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing isn’t enough if workplace air is unhealthy. A clean and uncontaminated environment is crucial for worker wellness.

The EPA states there are three basic strategies to improving indoor air quality:

  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation
  3. Air Cleaners (3) 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes further and states that air purifiers have the potential to further reduce exposure to virus-laden aerosols and serve as a useful supplement to other protective procedures. (4)

Regardless of industry, every profession has its own challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Fortunately, the key to providing a healthy IAQ is the same regardless of the type of business. The solution is employing air purification / filtration methods.

Here are just five examples of businesses and their specific IAQ challenges:

Schools

Primary schools, unlike personal residences, commercial buildings, and office structures, tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces. For example, K-12 schools struggle with social distancing in congested areas such as cafeterias and classrooms (5), while colleges face challenges with areas such as student housing and lecture halls. Germ-sharing is communal at many schools. But it doesn’t need to be.

Dental Offices

Many dentists operate out of small offices where proper ventilation may be compromised. Unhealthy air could threaten worker health every time a patient opens his mouth – which is done often and without a mask during dental procedures. The aerosols created during patient treatment are emitted into the air and linger unless airflow and ventilation are suitable. (6)

Spas, Salons, Barbershops

These types of businesses are often located in smaller, tighter spaces which can create an environment ripe for transmitting illness. Workers are unable to social distance from their clients, putting them in harm’s way if someone is sick. Air purification and constant air flow help combat viral transmission.

Nursing Homes

In any healthcare facility, the potential for communicable diseases to enter a worker’s breathing space is an ongoing risk. Even more so at nursing homes, where transmission and death rates are particularly high. While only 7% of the country’s cases have occurred in nursing homes, residents there represent 40% of all US Covid-19 deaths. (7)

Gyms, Health Clubs, Sports Facilities

Indoor places where heavy breathing and sweating regularly occur require extra attention. (8) When people are outside, droplets from exhalations, coughing, and sneezing are dispersed into the air more quickly. But indoors, viral spray can linger, increasing the potential for transmission.
What Can Businesses Do to Improve IAQ?

Portable HEPA Filtration

Before new guidelines are issued and officially in place, businesses of all types can safeguard worker health by reducing the threat of viral transmission. In addition to social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting, establishments – wherever space and funding will allow it – can add portable HEPA filtration systems to their virus-combating arsenal.

The reason why air cleaners with HEPA filtration are powerful tools against viral transmission is that they are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. Used exclusively, air cleaning and filtration are not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective way to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates.

Our portable HEPA filter air cleaning systems come in three different models, the filtration and recirculation capabilities ranging in room sizes as small as your typical classroom to multi-use areas up to 1200 sq. ft.

To find out more about our air purifying systems – such as our 987-AMB-HEPA model – contact Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.

Should My Air Filtering Unit Include UV?

Claims for using UVC Air Filtration in Air filtering units to fight Covid-19 dismissed by science

While using Ultraviolet light has been used to stop pathogens like Covid-19, its effective use requires dosage controls that are not possible in typical air cleaning units. In addition, Ultraviolet light when improperly used can be extremely dangerous to human skin and eyes.

Research from Consumer Reports indicates that there is no evidence to prove that UV light in-home use and commercial-grade air purifiers kill the Covid-19 virus.

“Some air purifiers claim to kill viruses using UV light or some kind of photocatalysis technology,” says John Galeotafiore, a director of testing at CR. “We suggest consumers take these claims with a grain of salt because there isn’t enough concrete evidence yet that proves they work in these settings.”

Research from Live Science indicates that very specific and controlled use in medical settings is effective.

Ultraviolet light has been used to eliminate pathogens for decades and is effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the pandemic.

But it takes the right kind of UV in the right dosage, a complex operation that is best administered by trained professionals. In other words, many at-home UV-light devices claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2 likely aren’t a safe bet.

“UVC has been used for years, it’s not new,” Indermeet Kohli, a physicist who studies photomedicine in dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, told Live Science. UVC at a specific wavelength, 254 nanometers, has been successfully used to inactivate H1N1 influenza and other coronaviruses, such as a severe acute respiratory virus (SARS-CoV) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), she said. A study published June 26 to the preprint database medRxiv from Kohli’s colleagues awaiting peer review now confirms that UVC air filtration also eliminates SARS-CoV-2.

UV radiation can be classified into three types based on wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Nearly all the UV radiation that reaches Earth is UVA because most UVB and all of UVC light is absorbed by the ozone layer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s UVC, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, that can act as a disinfectant.

“The data that backs up this technology, the ease of use, and the non-contact nature of UVC air filtration makes it a valuable tool amid the pandemic, ” Kohli said. But responsible, accurate use is critical. UVC’s DNA-damaging capabilities make it extremely dangerous to human skin and eyes, Kohli said. She cautioned that UVC air filtration and disinfection technologies should primarily be left to medical facilities and evaluated for safety and efficacy by teams with expertise in photomedicine and photobiology.

When it comes to a home UVC air filtration lamps, their ability to damage skin and eyes isn’t the only danger, Dr. Jacob Scott, a research physician in the Department of Translational Hematology and Oncology Research at Cleveland Clinic, said. These devices also have low-quality control, which means there’s no guarantee that you’re actually eliminating the pathogen, he said.

“UVC does kill the virus, period, but the issue is you have to get enough dose,” Scott told Live Science. “Particularly, for N95 masks, which are porous, it takes a pretty big dose of UVC-254 nm to eliminate SARS-CoV-2. This kind of accuracy isn’t possible with at-home devices.

In hospitals, the geometry of the room, shadowing, timing, and the type of material or object being disinfected are all accounted for when experts determine the right level of UVC air filtration that’s needed to kill pathogens. But that kind of “quality assurance is really hard out in the world, out in the wild,” Scott said. At-home devices don’t offer that kind of precision, so using them could offer a false assurance that SARS-CoV-2 has been eliminated when it hasn’t, he noted. “Having something you think is clean, but it’s not, is worse than something that you know is dirty ” because it affects your behavior toward that object, he said.

Understanding How Positive / Negative Pressure Machines Are Used in Healthcare

Understanding How Positive / Negative Pressure Machines Are Used in Healthcare 1

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, we, as a global population, continue to find ways to keep our indoor air quality clean and free of potentially threatening particles, dust, and germs. Never has there been a time in modern history that we have faced such an urgency.

Public health emergencies, such as the Covid-19 crisis, require systematic protocols to protect citizens from airborne contaminants and infectious diseases. The medical community and the patients they labor to protect are even more vulnerable than the general public and require many extra layers of protection against illness.

Existing healthcare practices generally include personal protective equipment and accessories, patient isolation, and environmental control. But for the most aggressive communicable diseases, additional measures such as a negative pressure machine are recommended. 

To understand its effectiveness in this circumstance, one must become familiar with this particular piece of equipment and understand how it operates.

What is Negative Pressure Air Cleaning?

This type of air purifier, when using negative pressure, removes airborne pollutants from a contained space so as to prevent the spread of contamination to other parts of a building or structure. 

How Does a Negative Pressure Machine Work?

The unit creates a negative vacuum that pulls air in and through a filter (such as HEPA or ULPA) and attached ductwork to remove impurities such as microbes, dust, and molds. Thus, preventing dirty air from leaving the space.

What Is Positive Pressure Air Cleaning?  

When using positive pressure, the air cleaner maintains a higher room air pressure than that of the surrounding environment, meaning particles are filtered as air leaves a room and are prevented from returning.

Are They CDC or OSHA Approved?

Neither the CDC nor OSHA approve indoor air quality equipment – to say a piece of equipment is CDC approved is misleading. Both organizations set standards that need to be met by businesses and healthcare facilities. Quality air cleaning equipment can help such organizations meet these standards and adhere to such regulations.

What are examples of Positive/Negative Pressure Rooms?

Patients with infectious diseases, such as the Covid-19 virus, require isolation treatment in a space with a negative pressure machine. This reduces the chance of germ transmission via doorways and HVAC systems. Other examples of medical spaces that require negative pressure machine cleaning are waiting rooms, ERs, facility bathrooms, and decontamination spaces.

Positive pressure rooms require consistent filtration of harmful pollutants so clean air is always maintained. Examples are operating rooms, laboratory clean rooms, and in vitro fertilization labs. 

The type of pressure machine product that is right for a given application will depend on whether or not an area or room and the air within need to be isolated or protected from outside contaminants. At Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. we provide to our customers our Extract-All® Ultra Clean Air room air cleaning system. It is a portable, self-contained high-efficiency system that uses HEPA or ULPA filtration. For more information, contact us for a free estimate with one of our clean air experts.