Improving indoor air quality helps create healthier indoor living environments. This idea, that air quality plays a pivotal role in daily life, continues to enter the mainstream. Public recognition of this important topic hit a milestone with the White House’s recent virtual event that highlighted the role healthy indoor air plays in mitigating COVID-19 transmission indoors.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted the special event titled “Let’s Clear the Air on COVID” on March 29. The online webinar came roughly a week after the Administration, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) among other agencies, announced the “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge.” The virtual event complemented the new initiative that focuses on helping Americans develop actionable healthy indoor air plans. Presentations specifically honed in on the importance of better ventilation and filtration for all indoor spaces.
Let’s Clear the Air on COVID
In September of last year, the Biden Administration released the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan which listed improved indoor air quality as a useful tool to combat airborne transmission indoors. The clean air challenge campaign and educational event aimed to further explain how indoor air quality serves as a means of infection control.
Featuring multiple speakers and discussions, “Let’s Clear the Air on COVID” was an informative public event. The segments covered the history of ventilation and public health intervention as well as aerosol transmission and IAQ intervention strategies. Other presentations included the benefits of improving ventilation, risk assessment indoors and an overview of the EPA’s role in helping schools improve building air quality to create healthier learning spaces.
How Does COVID-19 Spread Indoors?
Head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. Alondra Nelson’s opening remarks cemented the Biden Administration’s take on indoor air quality control and COVID-19 transmission. Her introduction was decisive and plainly named the reality of airborne transmission. She established a resolute tone early on, explaining that COVID is airborne and spreads primarily via aerosols.
A following speaker, Virginia Tech Professor Dr. Linsey Marr, explained aerosol transmission in depth. Her presentation offered a helpful overview of aerosols and the IAQ solutions available to reduce the number of aerosols indoors. Recognizing that airborne transmission is a key threat of COVID-19 makes indoor air quality control solutions absolutely crucial.
How Can Indoor Transmission of COVID-19 Be Minimized?
The event listed ventilation, filtration and upper room ultraviolet germicidal light purification solutions. However, there was a particular focus on fresh air ventilation.
All of the aforementioned IAQ control strategies help minimize indoor transmission of COVID-19. How? Take ventilation solutions first. Higher ventilation ensures less transmission of all respiratory infections indoors. Increased ventilation improves air circulation and dilutes indoor air pollution, minimizing exposure. Speakers also mentioned the need to increase incoming virus-free outdoor air over relying on recirculated indoor air.
Filtration solutions mentioned included both high-efficiency HVAC filters, such as MERV 13 media filters, as well as portable air cleaners with HEPA level filtration. Filtering strategies help minimize COVID-19 transmission indoors by capturing and removing virus particles.
The final solution mentioned was germicidal UV light sterilization or disinfection, also referred to as upper room UVGI. Different from filtration and ventilation, this solution kills virus particles rather than removing them from the air. Speakers vouched for UV light technology citing its reliability and decades of use in hospital and healthcare situations. They did, however, also include the importance of continued customer research before purchasing and to look for third-party independent testing verification for all purification solutions.
Improved Indoor Air Quality Benefits
The event clearly emphasized that the Administration regards IAQ control strategies and intervention as a key solution in the fight against COVID-19. Additionally, throughout the event speakers made it clear that improved IAQ has lasting benefits. Clean indoor air is not solely a pandemic solution, but a long-term solution that can ensure healthier indoor environments for years to come.