6 tips to control air quality at your business - COVID-19
Air change requirements
1Understand Your SurroundingS
Every business depends on its surrounding environment and understanding the needs truly depends on identifying the problems. The CDC has only recently added airborne transmission as one of the methods that COVID-19 can spread. Many studies have confirmed that COVID-19 appears to remain airborne longer than suspected and contaminated droplets containing the virus can survive on open surfaces for days. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could last up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. When safeguarding the health of people remains the primary concern, it is the responsibility of businesses to leave no stone unturned when preparing to relaunch or refresh the business. Air contamination can occur from anywhere even from outside the premises.
INDOOR AIR CAN BE BETWEEN 5 TO 50 TIMES
more polluted than outside air
Those who live in cities spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors - most of the air they are breathing is "indoor air"
Can air filtration help? Yes, air filtration is one of the ways to fight the impact of potential risks such as airborne pathogens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust contamination, etc. As humans spend most of the time indoor and harmful pollutants can compromise one’s ability to fight the infections, air filtration solutions are saviors in scenarios where the level of pollutants is higher than recommended.
It is important to highlight the potential risks surrounding the business such as air pollution due to traffic outside or fumes from factories in the neighborhood, even the gases, and odors coming from restaurants nearby can raise the alarm. Evaluating the outside atmosphere along with indoor air quality is the first step in the process to regain control.
2Categorizing Your Air Quality Requirements
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is the primary governmental organizations charged with monitoring air quality throughout the United States. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) also has oversight responsibilities as well as individual state and local municipalities. These air quality laws are designed to protect human health, business processes, and the environment from airborne pollutant concentrations. After COVID-19 the importance and significance of these measures are high priority. Regulatory efforts start with categorizing the air pollutants, setting its limits to avoid any human harm, and taking appropriate actions to mitigate the risks involved. Hence, all businesses must identify the substances known as air pollutants or harmful particles in the surrounding air to initiate the plan of control. For example, the United States Clean Air Act is enforced by the EPA and has identified six main pollutants that need to be eliminated.
They are particle particulate matter, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. These pollutants can harm human health, environment, and cause property damage. Particle matter and ground-level ozone are among the most widespread health threats around the world. Once, the business has categorized its air quality requirements, an appropriate plan can be designed to remove the harmful particles and mitigate the potential risks.
Another step is to ensure regular checks are carried out on the air handling unit (AHU) to safeguard that there is no filter bypass leakage and the gaskets are providing good sealing. In the case of air leakage from the AHU, hygiene and the air filter efficiency get compromised along with an impact on the energy performance. It is important to make this a priority in the checklist involving the plan to assure good air quality indoors. Since air can play a central role as a means of transportation for microorganisms, in controlled environments regular microbial monitoring is useful to measure air quality and identify critical situations as per NCBI. This protocol should be a part of the regulatory checks as it is used for general monitoring of air contamination, such as routine surveillance programs.
The other check is to measure the pressure loss occurring when you install a filter in the air handling unit. When upgrading the air filters, it is important to ensure that they are compliant with ASHRAE Standard 52.2 with Appendix J or ISO 16890 . (See below for a more detailed explanation of ISO16890.) For HEPA filters, ensure the filter has been tested and labeled according to IEST-RP-CC-001 or for HEPA filters EN1822:2019. The choice of air filter depends on the risk of application and the efficiency the business needs to achieve to reduce the potential risks. For general purpose applications such as air handling units (AHUs) serving a general public building or office, Camfil recommends a minimum of MERV 15A per ASHRAE 52.2 with Appendix J or an ePM1 80% air filter and for high safety applications such as hospitals, a minimum efficiency of 99.97 at 0.3 micron. Read more about ISO 16890 .
Learn about the global significance of ISO 16890
4Identify Potential Contamination Risks
Microbes, chemicals, odors, gases, ozone, particulates are all common risks and assessments to identify these risks, and introducing the correct solution is critical. Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, this step is an important layer in health safety as these pollutants can damage immunity and act as an obstacle in the fight against the infections. For example, your exposure to ozone depends mainly on where you live and work and how much time you spend outside. Outdoor air contains chemicals emitted from industrial processes, automobile exhausts, agricultural activities, atmospheric photochemical reactions, etc.
Indoor air may contain the outdoor air contaminants in addition to contaminant species generated in the room or building, making your indoor air, in many cases, worse than the outdoor air. The indoor generated chemicals come from products that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as paints, glues, building materials, cleaning compounds, and office equipment (such as, copy machines). The air around hazardous waste sites or for instance gas stations can contain higher levels than in other areas. People working in industries that make or use chemicals may be exposed to the highest levels of it. Particle pollution (dust, dirt, soot and smoke, and little drops of liquid) includes coarse particles that are between 2.5 and 10 micrometers, fine particles that are between 0.1 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers; also known as PM2.5, and ultrafine particles that are smaller than 0.1 micrometers. PM1, the ultrafine particle can contribute to deadly diseases like heart attacks, lung cancer, dementia, emphysema, edema, and other serious diseases, leading to premature death. Each of us inhales more than 25 million particles with every breath we take ; the more contaminants we ingest, the greater the chance of sickness and ill-health.
Benefits of clean air
Typical particulates found in the air include:
Coarse particles, often 10 microns (μm) or bigger (1µm = 1/1,000th of a millimeter).
Examples include visible coarse dust, sand, leaves, hairs and other large organic particles.
PM10 – airborne particles =/< 10µm in diameter including coarser fine dust and organic particles.
PM2.5 – airborne particles =/< 2.5µm in diameter such as pollen, spoors and other organic particles.
PM1 – airborne particles =/< 1µm in diameter, including dust, combustion particles such as diesel fumes, bacteria and viruses.
Air filtration solutions depend on the category of the risk for the application. High-density areas with the most affected surroundings such as laboratories, containment units, quarantined zones need a much higher level of protection to compare to low-risk exposure surroundings or controlled areas like homes or small business space. High-risk application needs air containment and air filtration equipment HEPA filters rated 99.97% on 0.3-micron particles or higher along with the use of special personnel equipment and clothing, as well as a segregated air supply, among other precautions. Consider using air cleaners for fast and easy retrofit in case of a sub-standard ventilation system for improvement in air filtration. It is also a way to rapidly boost the air quality of an already good functioning system when there is an increased risk that demands even better protection. For crucial high-risk applications such as quarantined zones and laboratories, Camfil provides compelling containment equipment.
However, an air cleaner is recommended for use where the risk of airborne contamination is elevated. Both containment units and air cleaners cannot be installed anywhere as they are specific to the risk and nature of the surroundings, but an air cleaner can never replace a full containment set where there is a need. On the other hand, low-risk applications can consider using EPA filters or ePM1 80% or higher category of air filtration. Air cleaners or air purifiers are often used in offices and other commercial buildings to help improve the indoor air quality within the building. Reducing particulate levels, removing nuisance odors, and removing airborne particles such as viruses are often key uses of air cleaners.
Features of a suitable air cleaner
All air cleaners should have HEPA filters that are tested and certified to EN1822 factory test standards.
For the removal of odors or nuisance gases (such as formaldehyde) the use of a combination molecular filter is advised.
Adequate sizing to your room requirements is advised. A small air cleaner in a big room may not have the desired effect.
Low noise levels are key. In office environments, noisy air cleaners can be a distraction. Choose air cleaners with a low noise level.
5Monitor Particle Levels
The growing awareness of PM10, PM2.5, and PM1 is largely associated with the potentially damaging effects they can have on the human body. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes particles are affecting more people worldwide than any other pollutant. It is important to track your air quality as this can give you early indications, warnings, and help you mitigate against potential risks at your facility.
6Air Change Requirements
Air filtration is one of the ways to fight the impact of harmful pathogens such as COVID-19 . Clean air should be introduced into your facility regularly to ensure a clean work environment. A high-efficiency air filtration solution can prevent infections in the air because it can trap and remove harmful organisms from the air. The effectiveness depends on the efficiency of the air filter. But as infectious droplets generally are larger than 1 micrometer, the reduction of virus is significantly greater. The virus captured in the air filter is strongly bound to the fibers in the filter media. Once the virus is captured it will stay in the air filter and eventually dry out and die (referred to as inactive). Another step is upgrading the air filters to a higher filter class that would increase the particulate reduction over the filter step for increased added protection. For the healthcare sector to create isolation, negative pressure rooms are ideal as they can contain harmful airborne contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, molds, pollens, gases, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), small particles, and chemicals. Also, recommendations such as pushing more outside air “fresh air” into the AHU system does make sense for COVID on the surface but means significantly higher utility bills (to heat or cool the untempered outside air, and lower filter life due to higher particle loading.) Contact an expert to handle your air quality requirements, click here to locate your local Camfil office.