The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a springboard for ventilation and indoor air quality to finally receive much-deserved attention and research. A recent study from the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health further explores how indoor air quality, particularly in confined spaces, improves with ventilation.
Ventilation and air quality impact on hospitals
The article, titled, The impact of ventilation rate on reducing the microorganisms load in the air and on surfaces in a room-sized chamber, draws on the threat of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) as a serious problem for healthcare providers worldwide. This, combined with increasing antibiotic resistance among microorganisms, leads to rising death rates, durations of hospital stay, and treatment expenses.
About 22,800 people died in 2017 as a result of HAIs and treating these patients in England alone cost £2.1 billion.
Coupled with ventilation for HAIs is the importance of managing surface contamination for reducing the transmission of infections in hospitals. Contaminated surfaces that show increase in bioburden, the number of bacteria living on a surface that has not been sterilised, also saw an increase in the risk of HAIs. The deposition of microorganisms in the air then leads to the contamination of other surfaces, catalysing a vital cycle of the need for cleaner indoor air.
Results say: Increase ventilation
The experiment utilised automated multiplate passive air sampling (AMPAS) which enables passive deposition samples to be taken. (Passive samples comprise of bioparticles that have fallen/landed on a surface, as opposed to particles still in the air.) Using a devise like this is advantageous for providing consistent and reliable sampling to provide more accurate information.
Using AMPAS showed that when increasing the ventilation rate from 3ACH to 6ACH in the testing chamber space, the number of microorganisms in the air and on surfaces was reduced by more than 40%. This confirms that managing the ventilation rate can reduce the risk of infection brought on by surface and air contamination inside a building.
What does this mean for the built environment?
In a post-pandemic era, employers and other building managers are actively seeking better indoor air quality. In fact, 57% of UK office workers think that indoor air quality is affecting their physical and mental health. This study reaffirms the importance of ventilation in the built environment and provides further encouragement for organisations to incorporate indoor air quality into workplace wellbeing.
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