Indoor Air Quality and Covid-19
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. 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. While those problems still exist, both spas and salons now have another potentially serious health concern: COVID-19.
As part of the US Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long been the protector of the American worker. Volumes of standards and recommendations have been published benefiting laborers across all industries, including those employed at spas and salons. From ventilation recommendations for nail care personnel (1) to tips on avoiding chemical exposure for salon staff (2), OSHA has taken the lead in protecting employee health.
Now, in our country’s seventh month of pandemic-related closures, many local safety guidelines are being lifted and, in many areas, spas and salons are reopening. Is it safe to reopen? How at-risk are workers and the patrons they service?
The World Health Organization, which deemed COVID-19 a global health crisis, (3) explains its path of transmission:
COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These include saliva or respiratory droplets that are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example. People who are in close contact with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets get into their mouth, nose or eyes. People with the virus in their noses and throats may leave infected droplets on objects and surfaces when they sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. Other people may become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths before cleaning their hands.
Spas and salons, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for viruses. These types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces that create an environment ripe for germ-sharing. 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 in a matter of hours. That’s what makes cleaning and disinfecting so 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. An obviously ill worker is duty-bound to stay home. But what about the asymptomatic stylist who talks or clears her throat nearby or who, accidentally coughs near another person? The aerosols from that person can linger in the air and circulate. Which is to say, cleaning the air is as important as cleaning surfaces.
Even before COVID-19 hit the scene, the CDC made recommendations for controlling unhealthy occupational exposures in the form of their Hierarchy of Controls model. (4) This model offers five ways to reduce transmission among workers by adopting into practice the various control methods.
While social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and wiping down surfaces make workplaces safer, the most effective control measure is elimination. It is often the most difficult “control” to implement due to cost and any potentially complicated mechanical structures that exist in a building. Among the list of control measures, the CDC suggests these engineering initiatives as additional preventive measures: (4)
- Use ventilated tables or portable ventilation units, if available. Move the ventilation units to make sure they do not blow air from one person to another.
- If possible, salon owners and managers should work with facilities (building) management to adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is sent into to client spaces, while maintaining the humidity at 40-60%. If possible, increase filter efficiency of HVAC units to highest level possible.
- Consider using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units to remove contaminants and clean the air.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underscores the CDC recommendations by advocating for the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to reduce transmission threat in higher-risk areas (5) (such as waiting areas and spaces where multiple stylists and/or customers are located).
What makes using these air cleaners with HEPA filtration a powerful tool against viral transmission is that these products 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 to protecting spa and salon workers and their customers.
Our Salon Pure Air line of air filtration and purification products not only removes fumes and odors from the source but with our 987 AMB HEPA Room Air Scrubber also removes up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact Air Impurities Removal Systems Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.