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Many of us breathed a collective sigh of relief as 2021 began even as we remained cautious about the future. However, 2021 brought new challenges with COVID-19 including new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Other indoor air quality concerns resulted from buildings left empty during shutdowns. That included the growth of mold and bacteria like Legionella. Aging infrastructure and mechanical systems in schools also concerned many Americans in 2021 and we provided advice to administrators on how to address them. As 2021 comes to a close, let’s take a look back at the IAQ topics we presented in the first quarter of the year.
Addressing Indoor Air Quality Concerns
We thought a good way to start the new year was by revisiting some basic IAQ principles. We offered five steps facilities managers should take to address indoor air quality concerns. The first step was to understand the indoor environment as it related to the coronavirus. Data emerged in 2020 that suggested that the virus spreads through airborne transmission. Therefore, disinfecting surfaces and HVAC systems is critical to controlling the spread.
We also suggested that building managers identify the various pollutants in their buildings in order to take the best course of remediation. Particulate matter, lead, and gasses pose a threat as do pollen, mold, bacteria, and other microbes. The third recommendation was to complete an HVAC assessment to gain insight into the impact the system has on IAQ. Diagnosing the problem first leads to a more effective treatment plan. We also suggested identifying contaminants and sources of volatile organic compounds. The last step is monitoring indoor environmental conditions to prevent future IAQ issues.
Reducing COVID-19 Exposure in Buildings
In February, we marked the grim anniversary of the first U.S. case of COVID-19, a point at which over 400,000 Americans had lost their lives. That number is looking to double by the second anniversary in 2022. We highlighted the need for mask-wearing as well as social distancing, frequent handwashing, and changing traffic patterns in the workplace to address indoor air quality concerns. We also stressed the need for proper ventilation in buildings to reduce COVID-19 exposure. Dr. Rajiv Sahay, FIAS, CIAQP, director of the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory warned of the high risk of viral transmission caused by contaminated air and surfaces and stressed the need for environmental management to protect against transmission. We recommended commercial-grade air purifiers as a part of the overall plan to improve ventilation.
Indoor Air Quality Concerns When Reopening Buildings
In March we looked at some of the dangers that develop in buildings as they remain empty. Mold and Legionella, in particular. Also in March, we talked about the dangers of mold that forms as buildings remained empty for months at a time. A lack of ventilation in buildings with closed doors and windows contributes to mold growth, especially for older buildings where water intrusion is also a problem. When high humidity combines with moisture, mold thrives. Therefore, building managers were advised to test for the presence of mold. We recommended our Building Health Check as a way to assess indoor air quality concerns with PURE-Decon as a way to disinfect HVAC equipment and ductwork. The IAQ Guard system provides 24/7 monitoring of environmental conditions so facilities directors can act fast to address IAQ issues.
Later in February, we addressed the problem of Legionella bacteria. The risk of Legionella increases when buildings sit empty for extended periods. We advised managers to have a plan in place to respond to this threat to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires disease. This plan includes inspections, assessment, and testing with a Legionella test kit. PURE-Steam is an efficient system of cleaning and disinfecting HVAC evaporator coils, drain pans, and the AHU to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria.
Indoor Quality Concerns in School Buildings
In March we offered practical advice for schools with indoor air quality concerns. We advised them on ways to safeguard the indoor air quality of their classrooms. With so many U.S. schools using outdated, underperforming mechanical systems, the risk of virus transmission increases. Again we suggested Pure Air Control’s IAQ Guard to address IAQ issues and keep students and faculty safe. This system provides readings on particulate matter, VOCs, as well as temperature and humidity. The system tracks conditions using an all-in-one module that alerts a remote team to changes that affect indoor air quality. We also suggest the Building Health Check to further evaluate indoor conditions via mold assessments, allergen and dust screenings, and moisture testing.
Start Improving IAQ Now
We hope the information we provided in 2021 helped you with your indoor air quality concerns. As facilities managers continue to face challenges heading into the new year, we encourage them to partner with a trusted indoor air and environmental services company. Call Pure Air Control Services today at 1-800-422-7873 or email us here.