Could coronavirus and wildfires revolutionize indoor air safety?

Could coronavirus and wildfires revolutionize indoor air safety?

“360” shows you diverse perspectives on today’s top stories and discussions.

Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News;  Images: Getty Images (4)

Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; Images: Getty Images (4)

What is happening

The giant plumes that blanketed the northeastern United States last week provided a stark reminder of the dangers toxic air can pose — not just in the atmosphere, but also indoors. New York City has also dealt with the worst air quality in the world, killing millions of people potentially dangerous particles that have leaked into their homes.

But experts say it shouldn’t take such an unprecedented event for indoor air quality to be a major focus of health efforts. Scientists have known this for many years It can reduce heart and lung disease, improve cognitive performance in adults and children, and prevent the spread of a long list of deadly pathogens. The World Health Organization estimates that household air pollution is to blame annually worldwide. There is even a phenomenon known as It has been documented to reduce productivity and increase absenteeism in schools and the workplace.

, but neither public nor government health authorities have given indoor air quality the kind of attention given to clean water, food safety, and outdoor air pollution. This has been changing since the beginning which provided undeniable evidence of the life and death difference things like air circulation and purification can make.

Late last year, Biden administration a contract It brings together experts in health, ventilation, business and education to discuss ways to improve indoor air quality to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Then in May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the first federal recommendations for how often the air in a room should be circulated to stop the spread of disease — five times an hour.

Why there is a debate

Medical experts hope the awareness generated by the combined effects of the pandemic and increasingly frequent wildfires will help revolutionize indoor air in the same way that diseases like cholera made clean drinking water a necessity for cities around the world nearly two centuries ago. like Put it elegantly: “Air is the new stool.”

But many clean air advocates say there is still a long way to go before there is enough urgency to bring about the community-wide change they believe is necessary. They argue that only corporations and governments have the scope to effectively tackle a problem whose burden is usually placed on individuals.

On a small scale, improving indoor air can be as easy as opening a window. But the technologies needed to make a broader impact — including upgraded HVAC systems, air purifiers and UV disinfection — will be expensive to implement. A number of experts argue that this effort will ultimately save companies and governments money by reducing healthcare spending and increasing productivity.

What then

Some scholars make the case for new laws requiring better indoor air management. Others argue that change will only come through a concerted public pressure campaign that forces schools, businesses and lawmakers to make indoor air safety a primary focus of public health.

With more awareness of airborne viruses, the problem is not going away.

Outlook – Perspectives

Plans must be flexible to take into account the needs of different climates

“One of the main challenges is reconciling the building’s energy efficiency with indoor air quality. In places where the outside air is too cold or too hot, pumping large amounts of it into the interior spaces may require more energy to heat or cool the building accordingly. … different places also have fundamentally different built environments.” – Mary Hoy,

Ventilation should be raised to the same importance as plumbing

“A hundred years ago, they developed laws and rules for the entry and exit of water, and the plumber has already protected the health of the nation. Now is the time to rethink our HVAC systems and realize their importance.” – Lloyd Alter,

It is a mistake to assume that we can do to the air what was done to the water centuries ago

Engineered solutions have eliminated many waterborne pathogens from high-income countries. The same cannot be achieved for airborne pathogens, due to the continuous processes of ingestion and contamination. … Improving ventilation and air quality should be much higher on the priority list, and will help reduce illnesses from airborne diseases – but we must be realistic about what can be achieved. We cannot end the epidemic by improving ventilation.” – Infectious disease expert

A community-wide effort is needed to make such a massive change in the way we live

“Ultimately, the problem is not just about particles and filters. It will be up to companies, workers, students, parents, scientists and everyone else to demand change in the buildings where they spend so much of their lives. Do you know the air exchanges per hour in your workplace or classroom? Diseases are now a yardstick by which Americans should use it.” – editorial,

We will need to prioritize energy efficiency when creating clean air systems

“Decarbonising buildings offers an opportunity to rethink how we manage and improve indoor air quality. Balancing the need for increased ventilation while reducing energy losses through heating (in colder countries) or cooling (in hotter countries) is an important engineering challenge. Better insulation to reduce energy consumption should be set to adequate ventilation to avoid contamination pooling inside.” – Alastair C. Lewis, Deborah Jenkins, and Christopher JM Whitty,

We must improve the air indoors and outdoors simultaneously

“There are two main ways we can do to ventilate what we’ve done with water. One is to reduce particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide concentrations by transitioning to renewable energy quickly. The other is to improve indoor air quality by improving ventilation, both natural and mechanical.” — Jeff Hanmer, USA TODAY

Informing the public of air quality in crowded places should be mandatory

“The public must be informed of air quality in buildings and public transportation prior to entering, as well as its potential health impacts such as COVID risks. … Just as restaurants have health inspection reports with message scores in their windows, shared indoor spaces must display their air quality ratings.” These assessments can help people adjust their behavior appropriately.” – Abraar Karan, Devabhaktuni Srikrishna and Ranu Dhillon,

Citizens need to be empowered to ensure that the air they breathe indoors is safe

“People need a clear path to claiming better when buildings fail them. They deserve transparent indoor air standards, with metrics they can easily understand and use to make their own decisions. And they require policymakers to provide adequate support – and consequences – to building owners to ensure they meet those standards.” – Keren Landman,

Every dollar spent on improving indoor air quality will be more than compensated for

“Healthy buildings are also associated with less worker absenteeism due to illness and improved cognitive function, both of which mean that an investment in ventilation is an investment in a company’s bottom line.” – Joseph J.

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Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; Images: Getty Images (4)

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