Read part one of this blog here.
Ventilation and Filtration: School Buildings Must Do More
Some school websites do discuss ventilation and air filtration, critical strategies for controlling airborne spread. But here again, actions fall short.
Open windows are a simple way to reduce airborne concentration of coronavirus particles, but many classrooms have no windows. In others, the windows are bolted shut. Even when windows are operational, they’re often kept closed to keep out allergy-inducing pollen or blasts of cold air.
Schools are notorious for ventilation deficiencies. A recent analysis documented ventilation problems in 60% of New York City schools with ventilation reports. Well before the emergence of Covid, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported poor indoor air quality in U.S. schools may pose a “serious health threat” to students and staff.
The EPA was referring to airborne contaminants emitted by a wide range of biological and chemical sources, from mouldy ceiling tiles to cockroach dander to idling school buses and vaping devices. But the ventilation deficiencies that expose students and staff to pollutants also leave them vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.
So do shortcomings in air filtration. At many schools, the HVAC systems just aren’t equipped to handle high-level systems. As one American college concedes, adopting a more powerful filtration system “could very well cause system failure.” Even stand-alone HEPA filters won’t capture 100% of coronavirus particles, some of which are 900 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
One toxicologist, a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, described school filtration systems as “designed to control body odour, to be honest.” SARS-CoV-2, he noted, is a highly contagious aerosol. “We’re being asked to suspend disbelief and believe that buildings were designed to protect us against infections. You’re going to have to do more.”
What more can be done?
Ultraviolet (UV) light technologies, designed to kill viral particles that slip through filters, are often touted as alternatives. But UV rays pose their own health risks, which is why they’re used to disinfect subway trains after hours and elevators not in use. UV light is not a practical or safe way to destroy coronavirus particles hovering in classrooms.
A far better solution is an ultra-low energy plasma-based nanotechnology from Novaerus, called NanoStrike®.
Powered by NanoStrike, Novaerus air dis-infection devices are unobtrusive, available in three different sizes, and can be easily placed or mounted in classrooms, dorm rooms, restrooms, school nurse’s offices, campus health centres, and other high-risk spaces.
The devices house a series of coil tubes that generate an electrical discharge, not unlike the plasma emitted by lightning. A high-quality fan draws contaminated air into the chamber where, in nanoseconds, the DNA of pathogens becomes stretched by the plasma and explodes into inert, harmless debris. Clean air is then expelled back into the room.
Unique among air-disinfection devices, NanoStrike technology leaves behind no harmful by-products.
Novaerus devices are so safe, even for the most vulnerable populations, that they are commonly deployed in hospital ICUs, operating theatres, and emergency rooms. Designed to protect both patients and medical staff from infection, the devices run 24/7. With a highly infectious virus such as SARS- CoV-2, continual air disinfection is critical.
The same sleek, white metal boxes can now be found in universities and schools alike.
NanoStrike technology, proven highly effective by independent lab testing, has long been used to fight influenza, norovirus, measles, MRSA — any number of viral and bacterial diseases. Tests also have confirmed the devices destroy airborne toxins such as VOCs and fine particulate matter.
Now, lab tests confirm NanoStrike technology can reduce airborne load of MS2 Bacteriophage, a virus used as a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, by 99.99% in just 15 minutes.* Hospitals worldwide, from Wuhan to Budapest, have installed the units in their Covid wards.
Novaerus portable devices, powered by NanoStrike Technology can help to remove airborne viruses which travel in tiny aggregated droplets that can linger for hours before they settle on surfaces.
Schools Must Prioritize Air Disinfection
The stakes for schools have never been higher. At least 6 American school teachers died from Covid-19 in the weeks after schools re-opened. Mississippi reported over 600 cases among teachers and staff.
In Italy, concerns were raised as the country with the oldest teaching workforce in the EU returned to school. More than half of primary and secondary school teachers in Italy are over the age of 50, with 17% over 60.
Schools are working hard to keep staff and students safe. At the same time, administrators and building operators are inundated with conflicting guidance — from government authorities and public-health experts — on how best to minimize coronavirus spread. Recently, the CDC has updated its guidance on how COVID-19 spreads, acknowledging that the coronavirus can spread via airborne transmission.
“People have prevention fatigue,” says Dr Emanuel Goldman, the Columbia microbiologist. “They’re exhausted by all the information we’re throwing at them. We have to communicate priorities clearly.”
In schools, Dr Goldman asserts, the top priority must be air disinfection. An investment made during the pandemic will pay dividends in the aftermath.
“Covid-19 is not the first — and will not be the last — infectious disease to threaten our society,” says Harvard’s Joseph Allen, co-author of Healthy Buildings. “School building systems, in general, have historically been underfunded, under-ventilated, and under-prepared.”
By deploying Novaerus NanoStrike technology, schools will find themselves prepared for future waves of Covid-19 and the inevitable outbreaks of other highly infectious diseases.
*The Novaerus Defend 1050 air dis-infection unit was shown to reduce the virus by 99.99% in 15 minutes.