In 2020, COVID-19 altered the landscape for future interactions with others in our facilities. We have implemented risk mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the virus. Strategies typically include social distancing measures, sanitizing stations, face mask policies, and temperature checks at entrances. While strategies like these can reduce the spread of illnesses like COVID-19, are they enough? Have you thought about the air you are breathing? What contaminants might you be breathing in? Air filtration is a valuable asset to any risk mitigation plan, preventing the spread of illness and other airborne contaminants.
The air we breathe is more than just a mix of gasses. You already probably know this or have at least experienced this. Have you ever gone outside in the spring and it makes your nose itchy? What about going to a place where they have a pet? Pollen and allergens in the air are common and can make it harder to breathe or even lead to mild allergic reactions for some people.
Have you ever run your finger across a surface and pull up a bunch of dust? What about across a surface near a fireplace? Particulate matter like dust, soot, dirt, and smoke travel through the air and land on our surfaces. Although these particles are bigger than most other airborne contaminants, they can lead to immediate irritation of the lungs, skin, and eyes as well as the potential for lung disease, heart attack, and decreased lung function.
While pollen and allergens can dwell in the air, other more harmful contaminants can lurk in the air we breathe. Mold Spores are common in areas that are humid or very moist. Mold can be outside or inside your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), inhaling mold can lead to allergic reactions and irritation of the lungs, throat, nose, skin, and eyes.
Indicative by the CDC’s recommendation to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, viruses and bacteria can spread through the air. Viruses and bacteria are not airborne initially. They begin to float through the air anytime a person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 is not the only virus that can spread through the air. According to Anna Pietrangelo at Healthline, the common cold, the flu, chickenpox, measles, mumps, whooping cough (pertussis), tuberculosis (TB), and diphtheria can also be inhaled leading people to contract these illnesses.
Fortunately, experts consider outdoor air safer than indoor air (excluding extreme situations like wildfires). Outdoors, air can circulate and dissipate any airborne contaminants. Inside a home or facility, air can stay stagnant without enough circulation. Without any air filtration, particles and contaminants in the air will circulate before collecting on surfaces or dying.
Aren’t Masks Enough?
Masks are important to prevent illness from spreading from person to person. They not only protect others from you but also protects you from them. While masks are critical in slowing the spread of illnesses, they are only so effective.
The CDC acknowledges that not all masks are made alike and have varying levels of effectiveness. We are probably all familiar with the research comparing medical-grade masks to cloth masks to scarves to disposable. Individuals may not have access to high-quality masks, potentially exposing them to more particulates in the air than others who have access to more effective masks. To close this gap, we need to find a way to prevent the spread of airborne contaminants beyond just masks.
The CDC also notes that a mask cannot always be worn. When eating, swimming, or engaging in high-intensity activities wearing a mask can be difficult. Children under 2 years old and people with certain disabilities may find it difficult to wear a mask. Since wearing a mask is not possible at all times or for everyone, we need to make the air as safe for these activities and individuals as possible.
How to Boost your Air Quality
Now that we are paranoid about the air we are breathing, it’s time to think about how to make our air as clean as possible to avoid risks to our health. The National Air Filtration Association and the CDC recommend facilities consider adding air filtration systems.
Hospitals, airports, and even some sports complexes have high-tech air filtration systems. Some homeowners are beginning to consider air filtration units for their homes as well.
There are different types of air filtration units which can cleanse the air and circulate this clean air through your home: HEPA Air Filtration and Ionization Air Filtration.
HEPA Air Filtration
HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate arresting,” meaning that this type of system pulls contaminants in the air and traps them in a filter. These filters are designed to trap particles like dust, pollen, and pet dander that may be circulating in the area. HEPA filter devices can range in size to handle entire facilities, homes, apartments, or singular rooms.
HVAC systems that use a normal filter may need to be upgraded or renovated to hold and use a HEPA filter properly. IAP Government Services Group can assist you with these HVAC repairs when you are ready.
According to the National Air Filtration Association, HEPA filter air cleaners can be effective at collecting large air droplets that can contain viruses like COVID-19. In addition to other risk mitigation measures, HEPA air filtration will prevent the spread of these airborne contaminants. The NAFA does caution that HEPA filters are not always effective and should be installed in public facilities by trained experts to ensure it is right for your space. The size of the space, placement of the filtration device, maintenance, cleanliness of the space, and other factors must be addressed to ensure your facility is using your HEPA system to its full potential.
Ionization Air Filtration
Ionizer air filtration is more complex than air traveling through a filter. These devices typically utilize a process that electrically charges particles in the air and attracting them to an oppositely charged plate. Think of the process as a magnet. This process can be hazardous if you don’t know what kind of ionizer you are using. Some ionizers can put off ozone, which is hazardous to pets and individuals with respiratory issues. This is why it is important to consult with experts to see what device is best for you and your facility.
Bipolar ionization doesn’t produce hazardous ozone like other ionizers while still neutralizing airborne contaminants. Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) offers their NPBI technology which produces ions that attract particles. These particles become larger and easier to filter from the air. The ions in the air also alter the surface proteins of viruses, like COVID-19, rendering the virus inactive in the air. Hospitals like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical Center use similar technology in their facilities to maintain a clean air environment.
IAP Government Services Group works with GPS to install this ozone-free ionizer in facilities. Ionization devices like GPS’ are integrated into existing HVAC systems and do not often require a full renovation of a facility’s air handling system. This option cleans the air without the time or costs typical to renovate an entire air handling system.
Make the Change to Cleaner Air
Your air may not be as safe as you once thought, but you can take steps to improve your facility’s air quality. Air filtration is a critical facet to any COVID-19 risk mitigation plan and helps slow the spread even when your guest may not have the best COVID resources themselves. Air filtration also stops other air contaminants that might be seasonal from affecting your guests, like seasonal pollen or mold spores during rainy, wet months.
IAP Government Services Group wants to see that your public or commercial facility is the best it can be. We want to ensure your and your guests’ comfort and satisfaction. Weighing air filtration options and installing the correct one can be difficult, so we are here to help. Our focus on public and commercial entities affords us the experience needed to know what's best for both large and small facilities accessible to the public.
If you are a public or commercial entity ready to take the next step toward cleaner air, fill out our project information form, and we will have one of our dedicated staff members assist you on your way to cleaner air and a safer facility.
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (2020). “Filtration/Disinfection.” ASHRAE. https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/filtration-disinfection#mechanical
Asadi, Sima et al. (2020). “Efficacy of masks and face coverings in controlling outward aerosol particle emission from expiratory activities.” Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-72798-7
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). “Considerations for Wearing Masks.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
DeMarco, Cynthia (2020). “Can air purifiers protect you from COVID-19?” MD Anderson Cancer Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/can-air-purifiers-protect-you-from-coronavirus-covid-19.h00-159385101.html
Environmental Protection Agency. “Mold and Health” https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-and-health
Environmental Protection Agency. “Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter (PM).” https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/health-and-environmental-effects-particulate-matter-pm
Environmental Protection Agency. “Particulate Matter (PM) Basics.” https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics
Global Plasma Solutions. “How It Works.” https://globalplasmasolutions.com/how-it-works
Haiken, Melanie (2020). “Used in large-scale ventilation systems worldwide, bipolar ionization could be a secret weapon in the war against COVID-19.” Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/bipolar-ionization-could-be-a-secret-weapon-against-covid-19-2020-4
National Air Filtration Association (2020). “COVID-19 (Corona virus) and Air Filtration Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).” NAFA. https://www.nafahq.org/covid-19-corona-virus-and-air-filtration-frequently-asked-questions-faqs/
Piedmont Healthcare (2020). “How to lower COVID-19 risk: Stay outside and get fresh air.” Piedmont Healthcare. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/how-to-lower-covid-19-risk-stay-outside-and-get-fresh-air
Pietrangelo, Ana (2020). “What Are Airborne Diseases?” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/airborne-diseases