Prioritizing Industrial Ventilation in the COVID-19 Era.Global organizations such as The World Health Organization spent much of the first half of 2020 denying the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could move through air-conditioning systems. Based on scientific research in the first half of 2020, evidence showed that the virus spread by droplet infection. In other words, if you were standing close to an infectious person, the microdroplet spray from their sneezes and coughs would reach you and more than likely infect you.
From a layman’s perspective, there were times when it seemed as though the virus’s swift and deadly move was through the air conditioning systems. A case in point here is the cruise ship, The Princess Diamond, that made headlines in early February 2020.
E.J. Mundell of webmd.com describes how more than 3 600 crew and passengers were quarantined on board the Princess Diamond. News reports initially noted that, even though everyone was confined to their cabins, the virus still spread, causing 700 infections and seven deaths. Japanese researchers used genetics to retrace the events on the stricken ship. They discovered that the virus spread rapidly via person-to-person transmission as people mingled at crowded events on the ship. However, there are cases where the virus still spread to people who had not come into contact with each other on board the vessel.
The World Health Organization acknowledged in a report published on nytimes.com on 5 October 2020 that the coronavirus can spread through indoor air or air conditioning systems.
Additionally, the CDC published an article stating that it recognizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s ability to spread via indoor air conditioning systems with evidence of such an event in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China.
Therefore, it is essential to prioritize the need to ensure that the HVAC systems, especially in industrial settings, are installed and maintained using quality HVAC systems like Canarm.
Note: It is essential to be aware that, because the novel coronavirus is so new; hence, its moniker, the “novel coronavirus,” not much is known about this virus’s behavior and its transmission mechanisms. Research scientists are conducting research studies and analyzing data as fast as possible to find out as much as they can about the virus as quickly as possible. Human lives depend on this knowledge. Thus, information released by organizations like the WHO and the CDC might change based on the ongoing research studies.
Secondly, the ASHRAE highlighted in March 2020 that HVAC contractors and technicians stand alongside public health workers in the fight against COVID-19. Because of the virus’s airborne nature, this puts the epidemic, and its prevention and containment, front and center for HVAC professionals. They also note that disease prevention cannot be solved by HVAC alone. There has to be a multi-pronged approach, of which HVAC is one of these prongs.
Therefore, by way of expanding on this topic, let’s consider a few ways to ensure the SARS-CoV-2 virus stays out of an industrial ventilation or HVAC system.
- Install HEPA filters
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filters are 99.97% effective at trapping particles as small as 0.3 microns in size, but they cannot trap microbes or particulates smaller than this.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus’s diameter is between 60 and 140 nanometers (0.06 and 0.14 microns), and its length is between 9 and 12 nanometers (0.009 and 0012 microns). In comparison, a human hair is between 50 and 70 microns, dust and mold are less than 10 microns, and fine beach sand is 90 microns in size.
HEPA filters are usually used in ICU facilities within hospitals. But, unfortunately, even HEPA filters tested in laboratories with viruses will have some level of penetration.
- Use ultraviolet disinfectant systems (UV)
Thus, while using HEPA filters is an essential starting point, they have to be used in conjunction with other measures like the use of ultraviolet disinfectant systems as part of the HVAC system to kill the viruses or inactivate the pathogens.
According to the journal article titled, “The History of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation for Air Disinfection,” UV lighting or short-wave ultraviolet radiation kills microbes by damaging their DNA. Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) can be used to disinfect water, surfaces, and air. Although surface disinfection is limited by the surface’s composition and absorptive protective layers.
Air disinfection is accomplished by “irradiating the upper-room air only, irradiating the full room (when the room is not occupied or protective clothing is worn), and irradiating air as it passes through enclosed air-circulation and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.”
This statement highlights the successful use of UV disinfectant systems in HVAC systems.
It looks as though the SARS-CoV-2 virus is here to stay for the foreseeable future at any rate. Additionally, the virus has mutated several times already, changing its behavior, infectiousness, and its mortality rate. While researchers are hard at work developing a vaccine, with two or three already abeen approved for human consumption, the virus’s behavior is changing faster than scientists can sequence the mutated genomes. Therefore, it is critical for everyone, including HVAC technicians and professionals, to work together to reduce the virus’s spread.