As we all welcome the New Year of 2023, there is always a refreshing hope of optimism of what is to come, and the endless possibilities in front of each of us. Many families and friends will gather to celebrate together. Once the ball drops, we will then quickly prepare to return back to home, work, school, travel, or wherever new adventures await.
For many though, the reality of the current “quad”-demic of COVID, RSV, Norovirus and Influenza will derail our excitement. With high infection outbreaks at record levels through each state and city in the Unites States, there is a high need for proactive solutions. And unlike traditional New Year’s Resolutions, we wanted to provide you with some powerful ammunition that will last and be impactful.
Typically, after the Holiday Season and the New Year, outbreaks spike and peak. When you consider that, according to a recent university research findings, viruses and other infectious pathogens are 1,000 times more likely spread via air than surfaces, focusing on indoor air quality should be the #1 priority for every school, hospital, daycare, nursing home, gymnasium, restaurant, hotel, church, office building and any other facility where people gather.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), and other industry leading associations in the indoor air quality field, here are the top action items you should be doing:
- Monitor Indoor Air Quality – You cannot solve or fix an issue you do not know you have. If you wait until there is an outbreak, it is too late. Ideally, you want to look for air quality monitors that offer proactive continuously monitoring. Monitors must have the ability to monitor down to the 0.1-micron level. This is important because viruses and other infection pathogens exists between the 0.1 to 0.3-micron levels. Most monitors only monitor down to 2.5 microns, 1 micron or at best, 0.3 microns. Yet 98% of all particulate matter exists below 1 micron. Most monitors are ineffective at detecting viruses and other harmful pathogens.
- Increase Indoor Air Exchange Rates – Experts agree that increasing air flow within environments is important, especially if you are bringing in fresh air, or better yet, purifying the existing air to make it safe and healthy. Ideally you want to get 3 to 5 air exchanges per hour within a facility. Purifying your air this often helps keep unwanted viruses and pathogens away. While your HVAC system helps to do this, most do not achieve the needed 3 to 5 air exchanges, which means you will need to look for other options to help get that. Look for air purifiers that have higher air flow and exchanges. Most only give 1 air exchange an hour, so be sure to read the fine print.
- Purify or even better, “Heal” Your Air To the Virus Level – Similar to monitors, most purifiers only clean the air at 0.3 microns and above. And while this is good for pollen, dust, soot, smoke and larger bacteria, all which cause asthma and allergy concerns, that size does not eliminate down to the virus level of 0.1to 0.3 microns. Most air purifiers have carbon filters, and/or HEPA filters, which have ranges from an industry standard MERV 6 to MERV 14. However, unless your purifier has a MERV 19 rated filter, it will not reduce or eliminate to the needed virus levels.
You can also look for other innovative technologies in the market, like UVC germicidal lighting. If you do find these options, be sure those UVC lights are LED and not incandescent lighting. The reason this is important is that incandescent lights start losing efficacy from the moment they first come on, and need to be replaced often, usually at least once a year. This has proven to be labor intensive, time consuming and expensive. Meanwhile, LED UVC lights maintain their efficacy and lifespan up to 3 to 5 times than that of incandescent.
- Beware of TVOCs – Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs) are gases emitted into the air from products or processes. While a lot of these can be caused by odors or scents, which can be smelled, there are a lot of TVOCs that are odorless. For example, cooking can increase TVOCs and cause a risky environment should there be any presence of viruses in the air. Paint, carpet, flooring, furniture, cosmetics, smoking and printers are just some possible items that release TVOCs into the air. Even cleaning and disinfection solutions and processes can cause or increase TVOCs. Try to avoid things like burning candles, incense, or plug-in air fresheners, since these are all sources of TVOCs.
These TVOCs may not be harmful, yet they are like Uber drivers for viruses. They pick them up and take them for a ride throughout your facilities, through your air ducts, as people walk by; and they can bring those harmful viruses right to you. What is also concerning is that these TVOCs and viruses can linger in the air for hours!
Look for products or processes that create or cause little to no TVOCs. And then look for air purifiers that have the technology to reduce or eliminate TVOCs. Innovation like UVA lighting and combining with titanium dioxide coatings, creates a photocatalytic reaction. This is an ideal way to take care of any TVOCs in your environment.
- Share your efforts and results – You want to build confidence and comfort for those coming into your facilities, so be sure to let everyone know exactly what you are doing to keep them safe and healthy. For those who want to bring employees back into the office, focusing on indoor air quality and communicating your efforts and results is an ideal way to make this happen. For businesses trying to reduce employee sick days and turn over, and to avoid shutting down for a period of time, indoor air quality is a critical area to address. At the heart of every school and university is the desire to keep kids and teachers in the classroom. Making indoor air quality of highest importance is a great way to achieve that goal.
Look for monitoring systems that have a robust dashboard and sharable kiosk view options which would allow you to share the air quality data and information with facility managers, building supervisors, nurses, parents and even the public as easily and flexibly as needed. By sharing this information, people will feel safe and confident to come inside and engage with others.
As we enter 2023, we wish you all a very Happy New Year. At ThinkLite Air we are committed to partnering with communities and facilities to help keep everyone protected and healthy.
10 Fun IAQ Facts To Consider:
- 2 – 5: Times that Indoor Air Quality is worse than Outdoor Air Quality.
- 90% – The amount of time, on average, we spend indoors.
- 1,000 – Number of people that can get sick from viral airborne particles that cover a tip of a pen.
- 17,000 – Number of breathes an average human takes a day, breathing in 2,000 gallons of air.
- 51,000 – Number of breaths kids under 10 years old take a day. 2 – 3X more breaths than adults.
- 30,000 – Number of droplets a sneeze can release and travel in the air up to 200 miles per hour.
- 100,000 – Number of particles a person sends into the air with each footstep.
- 13,800,000 – Number of school days missed each year due to poor indoor air quality.
- 37,000,000 – Number of bacteria humans shed per hour.
- 75,000,000 – Number of Americans impacted with allergies or asthma.