Now that society is focused on increasingly relaxing the rules, coming together with more people, the importance of measures and interventions that ensure that this can be done in a safe way is also increasing. That is why VITO and eu.reca vzw have joined forces for a webinar that was completely devoted to indoor air purification, or the use of devices that actively purify the air by capturing and/or inactivating virus particles.
By now we should know: an infected person, even without symptoms, spreads virus particles while breathing, speaking, singing or coughing. A decent mouth mask can perfectly absorb large drops, but the very small particles, the so-called aerosols, can still persist and remain in a room for up to 3 hours. The WHO now emphasizes that the virus spreads through the air. Keeping distance, wearing mouth masks and certainly thoroughly ventilating living rooms, offices or restaurants could well be more important than constantly disinfecting door handles or shopping carts.
“The coronavirus floats in the air: for hours, and much further than our one and a half meters. It accumulates indoors and that is why we have to ventilate considerably more.”, Marianne Stranger, indoor air quality expert VITO, is clear: “Everyone should apply, especially if you are in a room with several people, it is necessary to regularly open a window wide. You can monitor the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) well, so you know exactly when you need extra ventilation.”
“In a pandemic like this, you don’t want to give people a false sense of security.”
But what about rooms that you cannot ventilate adequately, for example because windows cannot be opened completely? “There are devices that actively purify the air. This is not new in itself: air purification has been used for some time in hospital operating rooms, but also elsewhere. However, if you are going to use such devices widely, you want to be sure that they can be used safely by everyone and of course that they have been shown to be effective in the fight against Covid,” says Jade Verrept, coordinator of the eu.reca network. “In a pandemic like this, you don’t want to give people a false sense of security.”
That is also the reason why VITO and eu.reca have invited a series of international experts to give their views on the airborne nature of Covid, the existing air purification techniques, when and where they are useful and where additional research is necessary.
“It is a fact that installing an air purifier can be very useful in some circumstances. But the introduction of air purifiers should be done with caution. Not only the effectiveness and safety of the device in question are relevant, but also the air purification flow rate, the place where you put it and the way in which you maintain it,’ explains Marianne Stranger.
That is why it is good that air purification is also included as a preventive measure. The recent ministerial decision and the Air Purification task force of the Corona Commissariat already create a framework for this. “That’s right, Belgium is taking the flight forward. But this is just a start. Consumers must be informed and guided in their choice. Just as you find information about fire safety and the regulatory framework about it – what type of fire extinguisher is best to buy, where should a smoke detector be installed to be effective, when should you provide a fire ladder or smoke extraction system – there should be a procedure for healthy indoor air and how best to obtain it”, say both Marianne Stranger and Jade Verrept.
A conclusion that Nico Seymus of Vinçotte can also support. “We support this initiative, because we, as an inspection and certification organisation, also receive a lot of questions from companies that want to create a safe indoor climate, but are looking for guidance and advice. In April last year we launched the SafeZone certificate based on the results you can demonstrate that you are following the Covid guidelines, but we also do check-ups of the effectiveness of HVAC systems. In order to create a safe indoor climate, you have to take many factors into account and you have to continuously train. This is very difficult for individual companies; I therefore hope that the government will engage the TIC (Testing Inspection & Certification) companies to provide the necessary support.”
Regardless, it remains important to view air purification as one of the preventive steps needed to reduce the risk of Covid-19. The rules are simple. Tackle the problem at the source: avoid places where there are many people inside, wear a mask and get vaccinated, so that fewer particles can spread in the air. In addition, avoid contamination by always ventilating and possibly additionally purifying the air.
You can obtain an extensive summary of the webinar via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Webinar with support from VLAIO via the industry 4.0 partnership SIRRIS/AGORIA.