Air filtration for hospitals is crucial for maintaining a clean and healthy environment for patients, staff, and visitors. High-efficiency air filters can help remove harmful bacteria, harmful particles, and contaminants from the air, reducing the risk of infections and illnesses. Maintenance of HVAC systems and air purifiers, as well as a properly scheduled air filter change-out program, is important to ensure optimal indoor air quality. Overall, investing in quality air filtration systems is essential for promoting a safe and comfortable healthcare setting.
Even though high-efficiency air filters can provide adequate protection for healthcare facilities, air filter quality can vary greatly. For example, a lower-quality air filtration system can cause viruses to spread much more easily than a high-quality system designed to provide long-lasting, maximum protection for a healthcare facility. This can lead to unnecessary illness and can even lead to liability for healthcare providers. Whether it’s a small clinic or a mega-hospital, it is important to take the proper steps to ensure that your healthcare centre provides the maximum protection needed.
What is the most important part of a hospital air filtration system?
One of the most important components of an air filtration system is the media used in air filters. There are many types of media available from a variety of manufacturers, but some do not provide adequate protection for patients, healthcare staff, and even instruments and machines. Another critical aspect of a hospital air filtration system is airflow. Air filtration and air circulation systems that allow the proper airflow are much more efficient at filtering out harmful particles.
Types of air filtration systems used in hospitals
The main types of air filters used in hospitals are; prefilters, final filters, HEPA and ULPA filters for the removal of particulate matter, and gas-phase filters also commonly known as carbon filters or molecular filters for the removal of gases and odours. There are many types of air filters used in hospitals, with various media and sizes, for a variety of applications from cleanrooms to waiting rooms, to cafeterias where many people congregate. All of these applications require different levels of protection.
Many spaces within a hospital must use a two-stage air filtration system with a prefilter and a final filter, but may also incorporate other stages too, such as a molecular stage for gas and odour removal.
Prefilters for hospitals
Prefilters capture large particles such as pollen, dust, hair, lint, and dirt before they reach the main filters. By capturing large particles, the prefilters do the heavy lifting for the main filters so that they are well protected and are fully optimized for removing particles that are harder to remove due to their smaller size, such as PM1, PM2.5, respiratory droplets, viruses, etc. Prefilters extend the lives of final filters and they also protect downstream equipment and spaces. They provide protection for MERV-13/13A and higher-rated ASHRAE filters, HEPA filters, and ULPA filters.
What is the best material and design for hospital prefilters?
The best design for hospital prefilters is a fully open radial pleated air filter with media bonded to a beverage board frame (moisture-resistant beverage-grade cardboard) and a strong, stable backing. Pleats allow for more surface area in a smaller space, allowing for higher dust-holding capacity and lower resistance to airflow. Prefilter media material includes synthetic and glass fibre.
Why should hospitals use HEPA and ULPA air filters?
HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air filters) are pleated mechanical air filters that can remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, and any airbourne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm). ULPA filters, ultra-low particulate air filters are capable of removing 99.999% ultra-fine particulate contaminants of a size of 0.1µm for the air stream. Source: EPA
HEPA and ULPA filters are ideal choices for cleanrooms and operating rooms, for minimizing airbourne contaminants during healthcare construction and operation, and for removing pathogens.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities should use high-quality, certified and individually-tested HEPA and ULPA filters. If the filters are not properly certified, they can create liability issues for healthcare facilities and may not fully protect hospital staff, doctors, nurses, or patients. Air filters also prevent microbiological contamination in research labs. Many pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or prozoa can do a lot of harm in a healthcare setting. Pathogens can be transmitted when they become airbourne through respiratory droplets that are generated from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Source: CDC.gov
Why do hospitals use molecular air filters such as activated carbon filters?
Hospitals use molecular air filters such as activated carbon air filters because they are specifically designed to remove harmful and nuisance gases, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) Read more about VOCs, and vapors from the air. All premium molecular filters use a process called adsorption. In plain English, this means adhering the molecules to porous molecular media with a very high surface area. Chemical filters and gas phase filters are other terms that are sometimes used instead of molecular filters.
What can hospitals do to improve indoor air quality?
Proper ventilation systems are crucial for maintaining good indoor air quality and preventing the spread of airborne diseases.
Adequate ventilation ensures the constant supply of fresh air and helps dilute and remove potentially harmful airborne particles. It also controls humidity levels, which is important for preventing the growth of mould and bacteria. By effectively circulating and filtering the air, ventilation systems contribute to a healthier environment for patients, staff, and visitors.
How have pandemics affected the design, operation, and maintenance of HVAC systems in hospitals to reduce infection risks?
The design, use, and upkeep of HVAC systems in hospitals have been significantly impacted by prior SARS-COVID outbreaks, Avian flu, Swine flu, superbugs, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals have put in place a number of procedures to lessen the danger of infectious transmission through the air in response to pandemics. To construct negative pressure isolation rooms, air filtration systems upgrades, raising air exchange rates, and enhancing air distribution are all required. The importance of regular HVAC system maintenance, cleaning, and disinfection has also been highlighted. The epidemic has brought attention to and boosted investment in improving hospital air quality by showcasing the value of efficient HVAC systems in preventing airborne transmission.
Cost-benefit analysis of different types of filters: Which type of air filters provide the best value for hospitals?
The initial cost, energy consumption, maintenance needs, disposal and filtration efficiency must all be taken into account when doing a “cost-benefit” analysis to establish the best value filters for hospitals. In an ideal world, high-efficiency air filters, such HEPA filters, would be utilised everywhere because they offer superior filtration. However, due to their weight or higher pressure drop, not all systems or air handlers are able to support these air filters. Generally speaking, the energy needed to run these filters would likewise be higher. On the other hand, medium-efficiency filters, such as those with MERV ratings of MERV-8-A to MERV-16-A, provide a balance between filtration performance and price. Hospitals must assess their unique requirements, taking into account aspects like patient population, air quality standards, and financial limits to determine the most suitable filter type that achieves the desired air quality goals while optimizing cost-effectiveness and ensuring that the appropriate guidelines and specifications such as CSA Z317.2:19 are met.
Tips on how hospital administrators can improve indoor air quality by selecting and installing appropriate HVAC systems and following ASHRAE 170 and CSA regulations
Implementing effective air filtration systems in healthcare settings involves several key practices. Following CSA Guidelines, ASHRAE Standard 170 and applicable local building codes is essential.
Some best practices include:
- Conducting a comprehensive assessment of air quality needs and requirements. For example, not all areas of a hospital will need the same level of filtration (specialized ORs vs. administrative areas)
- Selecting appropriate air filters based on air quality goals considering things such as the patient population, air changes per hour desired, desired efficiency (MERV rating)
- Ensuring regular maintenance, including filter replacement, cleaning coils, and ducts
- Monitoring and documenting air quality parameters regularly
- Training staff on proper use and maintenance of the HVAC systems
- Implementing strategies for infection control, such as air pressure differentials in isolation rooms
- Engaging qualified HVAC professionals to design, install, and maintain the systems
Your local Camfil representative can assist you with a complete comprehensive assessment of your filtration needs, can offer training for healthcare staff, and help develop a plan to put in place to make sure that all requirements are met.
The latest innovations being used in healthcare facilities to filter harmful contaminants used in hospitals
There have been several technological advancements in hospital air filtration systems.
Some innovations include:
- Ultraviolet UV: UV systems use ultraviolet light to kill airborne pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, within the HVAC system
- Air purification systems: Advanced air purification systems, such as photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) and activated carbon filters
- Smart sensors and monitoring systems: These technologies enable real-time monitoring of air quality parameters and provide alerts when maintenance or filter. replacements are required. E.g. particle counters such as Camfil’s AirImage
- The development of new media to achieve higher efficiency levels of air filtration while maintaining lower pressure drop and reducing overall costs
- HEPA filters rated at 2400 CFM reducing pressure drop and weighing approximately half the weight of traditional HEPA filters allowing for much easier changeouts in significantly less time. Ask your Camfil representative to see the new Absolute VG
These advancements help hospitals enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their filtration systems, further reducing the risk of airborne infections.
The importance of monitoring and testing air quality in hospitals: How monitoring the air quality in hospitals can help to identify issues or potential health risks before they become a serious problem
Regularly monitoring and testing of air quality in hospitals is crucial for identifying potential issues or health risks promptly. It helps ensure that ventilation systems are functioning properly and meeting the required standards. By monitoring parameters like particulate matter levels, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, and contaminants, hospitals can take proactive measures to address any identified concerns. Timely detection of air quality issues allows for targeted interventions, maintenance, and adjustments to ventilation systems, contributing to a healthier and safer environment for patients and staff.
The role of government regulations in ensuring proper air filtration standards: Guidelines and regulations put in place to regulate indoor air quality, within healthcare facilities, and how they impact hospital administration decisions regarding HVAC systems and maintenance
In order to establish and enforce proper air filtration standards in healthcare facilities, government regulations are essential. The minimum standards for ventilation and air quality in hospitals are established by building codes, health and safety laws, and guidelines like CSA Z317.2 and ASHRAE Standard 170. Specific standards for air filtration effectiveness, air changes per hour, filter combinations, the benefits of MERV-A-rated filters in healthcare settings vs regular MERV filters, and the design and upkeep of HVAC systems are frequently set forth in these guidelines. Since guidelines are constantly changing, it is important for healthcare administrators to be up on the latest recommendations to protect patients and healthcare staff as well as to protect medical equipment. It’s best to contact an air filter expert who specializes in healthcare to get advice on how to conform to regulations required for filtration of healthcare facilities.
The impact of poor air quality on patient health: How inadequate air filtration in hospitals can negatively affect patients with respiratory issues, weakened immune systems, and other medical conditions, hospital-acquired infections (HAI)
Inadequate air filtration in hospitals can negatively impact patients with respiratory problems, weakened immune systems, and other medical conditions. Poor air quality can exacerbate allergies, respiratory infections, and symptoms, and contribute to hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). Patients with weakened immune systems require clean, filtered air for recovery. High-quality air filtration is essential for patient wellbeing, infection control, and preventing health complications.
Future trends in hospital air filtration technology: What are some upcoming advancements to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of hospital air filtration systems?
Ongoing research and development continues to focus on improving hospital air filtration technology.
Some potential future trends include:
- Advancements in filter media: Researchers are exploring new materials and designs to enhance filtration efficiency while minimizing pressure drop and energy consumption.
- Integration of nanotechnology: Nanofiber-based filters and other nanotechnology applications may offer improved air filtration performance and durability as well as reduced energy consumption.
- Intelligent and adaptive filtration systems: AI-driven systems can optimize air filtration performance based on real-time air quality monitoring, adjusting air filter efficiency and airflow rates as needed.
- Enhanced air purification technologies: Continued improvements in air purifiers and other advanced air purification technologies may lead to more effective removal of airbourne pathogens and contaminants.
These trends indicate a growing focus on innovation and efficiency in hospital air filtration systems to ensure cleaner and healthier environments.
Training for healthcare staff on proper HVAC maintenance: Why is it important for those working within a hospital setting to be knowledgeable about maintaining clean air systems to address liability and encourage best practices?
Maintaining clean air within a hospital setting is of paramount importance for several reasons, and proper HVAC maintenance plays a critical role in achieving this goal.
Here are the key reasons why healthcare staff should be knowledgeable about maintaining clean air:
- Infection Control: Hospitals are susceptible to the spread of airbourne infections due to the high concentration of sick individuals and the presence of various pathogens. The HVAC system helps reduce the circulation of airborne contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Regular maintenance ensures that the system operates efficiently, filters out contaminants, and prevents the spread of infectious diseases.
- Patient Safety: Patients in hospitals, particularly those with weakened immune systems, are more vulnerable to airbourne pollutants and pathogens. Clean air contributes to a safer environment, reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections and complications. By understanding HVAC maintenance, healthcare staff can help create a healthier atmosphere for patients, improving their chances of recovery.
- Staff Health and Productivity: Patients benefit from having clean air, but healthcare workers also benefit from it in terms of their health and wellbeing. Focus, productivity, and general job satisfaction have all been linked to better indoor air quality. Studies have shown that poor indoor air quality impacts the brain’s ability to think clearly and creatively. -Source EPA, Science.org
- Energy Efficiency: A significant portion of the energy used in a hospital is used by their HVAC systems. System upkeep improves performance, which lowers energy use and related costs. Healthcare staff with HVAC maintenance training can spot and fix problems like leaks, clogged filters, or broken equipment right away, optimizing energy use and saving the hospital money.
- Longevity of Equipment: Hospital HVAC systems are heavy-use and need to work reliably to maintain air quality. Regular maintenance, which includes cleaning, lubrication, and inspection, enables early problem detection and resolution, preventing breakdowns and increasing the equipment’s lifespan. This can minimize interruptions in patient care and save money for the hospital.
In conclusion, it is crucial for infection control, patient safety, staff wellbeing, regulatory compliance, energy efficiency, and equipment longevity that healthcare administrators and staff are knowledgeable about maintaining clean air through proper HVAC maintenance. Hospitals and clinics can offer a safer and more comfortable environment for patients, staff, and visitors by maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
To consult with an air filtration expert who specializes in healthcare, or for additional information, please use this contact form and a Camfil air filtration expert will help with questions and requests..
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. Read more about Camfil Canada
With information from Michael Menard, Camfil Canada Healthcare Filtration Expert
Canadian Standards Association
Environmental Protection Agency
Camfil Canada Inc.