Once scientists figure out how a disease spreads, they go to great lengths to mitigate its harmful impact. Regulations are a common outcome. As an example–the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates what we eat and drink. Restaurants are subject to random food establishment inspections to ensure proper food handling and safety rules are followed. These have all been huge wins for public health. Establishing indoor air quality standards for buildings looks to be the next big win on the horizon.
It’s time we took indoor air safety as seriously as we do food safety, sanitation, and clean drinking water.https://t.co/BDXKa2MHB9 pic.twitter.com/XOHApsnI9D— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) May 30, 2021
In 2020, many learned how bad indoor air quality can make us sick. Today, there’s a new focus to acknowledge poor air quality and airborne infectious diseases and develop standards to mitigate health consequences. Experts are weighing in and released an open letter calling for greater regulations. The May policy article included 39 researchers and scientists, with an additional 239 signatures.
“We need to establish the foundations to ensure that the air in our buildings is clean with a significantly reduced pathogen count, contributing to the building occupants’ health, just as we expect for the water coming out of our taps,” said Lidia Morawska, lead author and director of Queensland University Technology’s International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health in the journal Science.
“Mandated building ventilation standards need to include higher airflow, filtration and disinfection rates and monitors that allow the public to observe the quality of air around them.”
What Do Experts Suggest For Indoor Air Quality Standards?
Above all, they call on every country to better regulate indoor air quality. They want each country to develop and enforce a set of IAQ standards for buildings to follow. Some countries have existing IAQ standards, but none include airborne pathogens, and there is an overall lack of enforcement procedures.
It’s time for a “paradigm shift” in how we think about the quality of the air we breathe indoors, a group of scientists has said, calling for the same kind of reforms seen for clean water in 1842, food safety in 1906 and lead-based paint in 1971. https://t.co/K6eU8NChcY— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 14, 2021
They also want professional engineering bodies to develop stronger ventilation standards. Scientists are specifically calling on the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to develop new standards. Ideally, for buildings, it would look like a ventilation grading scale and certificate, similar to a restaurant grading.
The Future of IAQ Standards
Right now, possible IAQ standards focuses on ventilation, filtration, monitoring air quality and reducing the costs of infection. The study estimates that effective ventilation systems would cost 1% of total building construction. Reducing the costs of influenza ($11.2 billion per year), COVID-19 ($1 trillion) and other respiratory infections ($40 billion) are all driving demands to develop regulations. The cost to upgrade filtration and install air quality monitors would be far less.
If indoor air quality standards become a reality, HVAC businesses that are already installing and providing IAQ solutions today, will grow exponentially in the future. Learn how to start your business in IAQ here.