Indoor Air Quality

Why is air quality monitoring so crucial for fighting Covid-19?

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, indoor air quality monitoring was not a focus area for public facilities such as shopping ...


Until the COVID-19 outbreak, indoor air quality monitoring was not a focus area for public facilities such as shopping complexes, hospitals, banks, restaurants, educational institutes, and so forth. The pandemic has boosted the awareness about the importance of indoor environments. This is a reflection of the rapid spread of this virus and its consequent detrimental impacts that have brought indoor air quality into the spotlight. Indoor air quality affects the transmission rate of the virus in 3 different ways. 

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1) Virus Survivability 

A virus is a genetic material coated in a protective layer of protein that latches onto a living host in order to replicate. The surrounding environment impacts viruses’ ability to both survive and locate a host, with research indicating that both temperature and humidity affect these processes. 

2) Immune System 

Once a virus has entered a host, it is up to that host’s immune system to remove it, and air quality has been shown to impact immune strength. 

3) Duration of Exposure 

Increasing the duration and intensity of exposure increases the risk of transmission. As larger groups of people inhabit an indoor space, CO2 levels rise, and building ventilation is required to bring fresh air back into the building.

Risk assessment has been identified as a necessary step in opening buildings and workplaces, and following a structured risk assessment model is an essential component for a safe return. As more people return to the office, measuring the health of your office buildings will become critical to ensure air quality levels do not exceed the threshold benchmarks that would increase the likelihood of viruses spreading. 

 

How do different parameters affect virus transmission?

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CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)

According to a very recent study, the infection risk of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) is also proportional and highly related to the CO2 levels in an area, thus monitoring the CO2 levels and minimizing the amount of it in especially commonly used shared areas is a substance of deep concern. Additionally, the transmission risk of Covid-19 is much easier in indoor environments than outdoors. It's also stated that keeping the CO2 levels as low as possible will reduce the risk of transmission. ¹

It is also observed that if an influx of people makes CO2 jump from 800 to 1600, the risk of Covid transmission triples.  ²

Particulate Matter 

The rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic had raised questions on the route of transmission of this disease. The initial understanding was that transmission originated from respiratory droplets from an infected host to a susceptible host. However, indirect contact transmission with the viable viruses by different sizes of particles has been suggested.  A 10 μg/m³ increase of pollution level was associated with an 8.1%-11.5% increase in the number of cases for PM2.5 and PM10, respectively. ³

Humidity

Maintaining the relative humidity in the 40%-60% range in indoor spaces could help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Humidity can affect virus transmission in three ways. Studies suggest that higher humidity can enhance the body’s ability to fight off infection; that the coronavirus decays faster at close to 60% relative humidity than at other levels; and that drier air can lead to greater numbers of tiny coronavirus particles that travel farther and penetrate deeper into the lungs. Especially in winters, in addition to other strategies—masks, distancing, ventilation and filtration—raising the humidity is another layer of defense to consider.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

Implementation of sanitization and other enhanced cleaning protocols are a must to facilitate your tenants’ safe return indoors. But be warned: increased cleaning also means increased use of chemicals that often dramatically increase the amount of TVOCs in the air. Those gases can cause the transmission of viruses in the room, just like CO2

 

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