How Ontario Public Schools Can Combat Indoor Air Pollution and COVID-19 Infection at the Same Time with HEPA Filtration.
In this blog post, air filtration experts at Camfil Canada break down the harmful properties affecting our air quality and discuss the importance of high efficiency/HEPA filtration as students in Ontario, Canada are set to return to school in the fall.
There is no question that the air pollutants contaminating the outside environment in Canada seep into our indoor spaces. In fact, indoor air quality (IAQ) is oftentimes worse than outdoor air. IQAir states that indoor air pollution levels can be between 2-5 times higher and can quickly become much worse than the levels outdoors1.
Seeing as the average Canadian spends 80% or more of their time indoors at home, work, or school, these statistics are alarming. Even more alarming, a study has found that particulate matter promotes the spread and increases COVID-19’s morbidity and mortality.
For Canadians, addressing the air pollution crisis is critical for protecting public health.
Why Is Air Pollution Harmful to Canadian School Children and How Does it Affect COVID-19?
To understand how the contaminants in our atmosphere exacerbate COVID-19, it is first necessary to pinpoint exactly what constitutes air pollution.
As per the Oriental Journal of Chemistry, air pollutants are both particles and gases, with the most common being2:
- particulate matter – liquid or solid matter which can cause health issues
- carbon monoxide – has toxic effect on humans and animals
- nitrogen oxides – causes irritation to the respiratory system
- ozone – dries out human lung tissue
- sulphur dioxide – causes irritation to the respiratory system
Of the common air pollutants, particulate matter is the most abundant and possibly the most harmful to human health. Particulate matter can be classified as PM10, PM2.5 and PM1 based on a diameter of less than 10 micrometers, 2.5 micrometers, or 1 micrometer respectively. Due to their small size, particulates (specifically PM2.5 and PM1) can penetrate deep into the bloodstream, the brain, and the respiratory system, leading to inflammation in the lung cells. Not only is particulate matter a pollutant, it also acts as a vehicle for biological entities, including harmful pathogens, and can transport them further.
According to the Government of Canada3, PM2.5 inhalation can induce or aggravate:
- breathing and lung conditions, including:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- heart conditions, including:
- heart attack
- heart failure
The inhalation of polluted air can also increase the risk of stroke and cancer. Those with existing health issues, those who are active outdoors, those who live near industries, older adults, and young children are most at risk for experiencing adverse air pollution health effects.
In addition to the health problems listed above, PM1 inhalation can cause lung cancer, dementia, emphysema, edema and other serious diseases, leading to premature death.
How Is Air Pollution Linked to COVID-19?
An article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health hypothesized that there is a positive correlation between the presence of air pollution and the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus4.
To support this hypothesis, the authors presented evidence from a study in which researchers analyzed Italian cities whose particulate matter daily concentrations were well above the annual average. Analysis showed a significant correlation between long-term pollution levels and COVID-19 cases across as many as 71 Italian provinces.
The authors offer two potential explanations for this finding: 1) Since exposure to particulate matter inflames the lung cells, the probability of COVID-19 entering the cells is increased and 2) particulate matter has been proven to provide a suitable environment for biological entities such as viruses, so they are able to survive and can travel for greater distances.
To further support the hypothesis of the paper, the authors highlighted another study in which several annual satellite and ground indexes of air quality were compared with COVID-19 infections. The data uncovered statistically significant positive correlations between high air pollution levels and COVID-19 infection rate.
How Can Canadians Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Themselves Against COVID-19?
As the article mentions, it is “essential to have correct ventilation systems in closed environments as the particulate matter in the aerosol can also host pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, which can thus be easily transmitted.”
Fortunately, there are numerous methods to control air pollution, improve IAQ and reduce particulate matter inhalation. The best way to trap harmful particulates and gases from air pollution is through high-performance/gas adsorption air filtration.
How Does HEPA Filtration Combat COVID-19 in Ontario Classrooms?
To ensure that indoor air pollution and even the smallest forms of particulate matter are captured, air filtration expert Berni Baier says “implementing HEPA filters in high-traffic or frequently visited locations would be optimal when possible.” HEPA is a type of pleated air filter that is either installed in portable units or mechanical ventilation systems. HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air [filter], and can trap at least 99.97% of airborne particles above 0.03 micron.
For manufacturing venues such as pharmaceutical companies, food processing plants, or critical laboratory services that require high efficiency filtration, many of their HVAC systems are designed to incorporate these filters.
Many less critical applications are not designed to utilize these high efficiency filters. As an alternative, Camfil Canada suggests the City M Air Purifier, which is a part of our Air Purifier and Air Cleaner line. The City M is a free-standing air purification unit, meant to complement existing ventilation systems. It includes combination HEPA/gas removal filtration, allowing the unit to trap both particulates and gases. It also controls odours and lessens allergy and asthma symptoms.
Ontario’s education minister has announced that $25 million is allocated towards improving ventilation in schools with HEPA filtration to make schools safer for students when they reopen this fall. As a stand-alone unit that acts independently of the building’s HVAC system, the City M is an ideal solution for Ontario schools.
To determine how to best remove air pollution, particulate matter and prevent the spread of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, be sure to contact an experienced commercial building air filtration consultant to find the air filtration solutions that are right for your building.
Berni Baier can be contacted on LinkedIn.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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