Air Filtration and Why It's So Important Today - From COVID to Harmful, Toxins, Chemicals and More
Updated: Feb 28
Clean More Air in Schools, Universities, and Public Offices ... as Well as in Planes, Trains and Automobiles
In Fact, See the “American Rescue Plan” to Get Possible Funding to Pay for New Systems as Well
While it may be hard to believe, the typical human breathes in about 1,700 liters of air per day, but that air is full of airborne contaminants. With each dosing of air that is inhaled each day, the typical human takes in and inhales billions of particles as well. As we now know from COVID and its variants, some of those particles settle in the respiratory tract and deep in our lungs. That same air that we breathe is literally full of microscopic particles, some of which may prove very harmful to our body’s basic functions and operating systems. According to Engineering Science, we’re not just talking about COVID either:
Airborne particles are all around us — they come in many different forms, such as grit, dust, smoke, fumes, or mist, and we should not forget smog and fog. The types of dust are numerous: mineral dusts, such as those containing free crystalline silica (e.g. as quartz); coal and cement dusts; metallic dusts, such as lead, cadmium, nickel, and beryllium dusts; other chemical dusts, e.g., many bulk chemicals and pesticides; organic and vegetable dusts, such as flour, wood, cotton, tea dusts, and pollens; and biohazard dusts, such as viable particles, molds, and spores ...
Intuitively, as well as by reading and through various informative sources, we know that we all of us need “clean air” to breathe. But what can we do about it? Well, in closed environments there is actually quite a bit that we can do, so the quality and specific type of air filtration systems are imperative to know, to understand, and to incorporate. Again, let’s see this from Engineering Science:
What has filtration done for us? Air filtration is considered the most common method for cleaning air and used in many diverse applications; it encompasses multi-disciplinary fields, which add to the complexity of air filter performance assessment. Ironically, we had assumed that the past 60 years of progress in diagnostics, vaccines, and supercomputing and in analytical tools, such as genomics, bioinformatics, and scanning electron microscopy, would render our preparedness intact to combat any outbreak. Our status quo today suggests that an intrinsic understanding of the dynamics of filter performance is imperative if we are serious about enhancing air quality. The novel SARS-CoV-2 virus requires not only new tools, but also novel attitudes, particularly as knowledge about the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is still evolving.
By now, most of us have heard of HEPA filters. However, when HEPA filters are used, we should also note this:
... they have to be preceded to a minimum of three filtration stages, namely, fresh air, prefiltration, and fine filtration. The overall efficiency of a filter is based on the combination of the dominant collection mechanisms for a given particle size range.
Source: https://www.esmagazine.com/articles/100747-the-importance-of-air- filtration-its-not-only-dust
So, efficiency and effectiveness of air filtration systems are fundamentally important, as are the “given particle size ranges.” This reasoning most certainly applies to planes, trains and some automobiles, but is also applies to all enclosed areas—from basketball arenas to private homes (and then some). Needless to say, the appropriate application of an efficacious air filtration system in school systems and university settings is most timely and pertinent at this juncture in history. In light of that, the EPA says this:
The most effective ways to improve your indoor air are to reduce or remove the sources of pollutants and to ventilate with clean outdoor air. In addition, research shows that filtration can be an effective supplement to source control and ventilation. Using a portable air cleaner and/or upgrading the air filter in your furnace or central heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system can help to improve indoor air quality. Portable air cleaners, also known as air purifiers or air sanitizers, are designed to filter the air in a single room or area.
Source: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/air-cleaners-and-air-filters- home
As you’d imagine, not all air filtration systems are created equally, and not all are effective and efficacious (let alone energy efficient). So, the key is to find the best model for the best price (as with most things we buy). Let’s now refer to Consulting Specifying Engineer online for more:
... air contaminants can either be in the form of particles or gases and vapors. Gases and vapors exist in air as individual molecules, whereas particles are significantly larger than individual molecules. Given their relatively small size, gases and vapors are typically not removed from air through traditional media filtration ...
That same article goes on to say that:
Airborne particles can consist of many different materials. These particles can either be produced outdoors or inside the building. Outdoor particles can be produced from natural processes (such as wind, volcanic activity or decay of organic materials) or human activities (such as construction, agriculture, industrial plants and transportation). Particles also can be produced inside the building from building occupants, material off-gassing and building activities. Airborne particles can be composed of solids, liquids or a combination of the two and can be broken into the following categories:
• Dusts, fumes and smokes.
• Mists, fogs and smogs.
• Bioaerosols (i.e., viruses, bacteria, mold spores, allergens, dander and endotoxins).
Additionally, the sizes of various airborne particles can vary considerably.
So, what’s one of our “take-aways” here? It is the size and constitution (make-up) of the airborne particles. Just as all air filtration systems are not created equally, neither are the particles that could prove damaging and/or menacing.
Photo Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-58243238
When it comes specifically to schools and university settings, we should be acutely aware of the issues (as many undoubtedly are at this juncture of pandemic). At the same time, a special government program known as the American Rescue Plan (“ARP”), can help schools to pay for new air filtration systems. The U.S. Department of Education tells us this:
Clean air is essential for living and learning, and effective ventilation is an important part of COVID-19 prevention. We know that even before the pandemic, some schools, colleges, and universities had indoor air quality challenges, which many school, district, and higher education leaders worked to address as they reopened schools for in-person learning over the course of the last year.
As we move into the 2021-2022 school year, ventilation continues to be a top concern for many communities. Proper ventilation is a key prevention strategy for maintaining healthy environments and, along with other preventive actions, can reduce the likelihood of spreading disease. Wearing a well-fitting, multi-layer mask helps keep virus particles from entering the air and protects mask wearers. Good ventilation is another critical step to help reduce the number of airborne virus particles. The ARP provided $122 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to help schools prevent the spread of COVID-19 and recover from its effects, including by improving indoor air quality, so school leaders across the country can act now to improve ventilation in their buildings.
As you’d imagine, many multi-lateral entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have also been vocal on the subject. Simply see this news report for more:
Riverdale, March 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that schools ensure adequate ventilation and increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces, if possible. 8
As a result of the present pandemic, air quality is at the forefront of many individuals’ minds for the first time. But reducing infection risk isn’t the only reason why improving air quality is essential for public health, particularly that of young, developing children and adolescents as they return to in-person school.
Not only is high quality air filtration a factor in reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections in public buildings, cleaner air is a predictor of improved cognition and productivity, while poor air quality correlates with a variety of poor health outcomes. Though many parents have opted for their children to attend school virtually, teachers and those students attending school in person must have adequate protection from poor indoor air quality.
A good and appropriate air filtration system is not our only line of defense, of course. There are also safe and effective compounds to add to our surface environments in schools,
buildings, and other places of public gathering. Some of those compounds, such as electrolyzed water (HOCL or hypochlorous acid), are also recommended by the EPA. HOCL is particularly efficacious when applied with so-called “electro-static” sprayers, too (including within air filtration systems). After all, HOCL is merely a pH-balanced salt-water combination that is safe and effective (not harmful or toxic to plants, animals, or humans). Compounds such as HOCL could complement your overall strategy for keeping an indoor environment as safe as possible. See the EPA’s “List N” for more:
At the end of the day—as with most other matters—we want to be well informed. Gathering data and conducting research would be imperative. At the same time, look to credible entities to provide more about the specific air filtration and air cleaning elements that could assist you in your specific environment.
P.S. Below is direct information about the ARP plan and its related funding mechanism.
End Notes: American Rescue Plan On Thursday, March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, which will deliver critical aid to States (as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia), districts, schools, educators, students, and families as the country 10
continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) will move quickly to get these vital resources to each State, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The Department is committed to supporting State educational agencies (SEAs) and school districts in implementing these unprecedented resources to promote safe school operations and equity-driven, sustainable, evidence-based programs to serve students – especially those who are the furthest from opportunity – and to continue to strengthen teaching and learning.
ARP law: R. 1319
Department of Education Releases Resource to Help Schools Improve Ventilation Systems to Prevent COVID-19
American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support these efforts. The President's Build Back Better agenda would do more to improve school infrastructure
JULY 23, 2021 Contact: Press Office, (202) 401-1576, email@example.com • More Resources Improving Ventilation in Schools, Colleges, and Universities to Prevent COVID-19
Today, the Department of Education released a resource to help schools, colleges, and universities improve their ventilation systems to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and provide healthy learning environments. The resource outlines how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds can be used to improve indoor air quality and is part of the Department's broader efforts to support schools as they prepare to welcome students back to in-person learning this fall and build back better. The release of the resource coincides with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona's visit to Kelley Lake Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, that will use ARP funds to invest in indoor air quality improvements and will be offering in- person learning to all K-12 students for the 2021-2022 school year.
"Protecting our schools and communities from the spread of COVID-19 is the first step in bringing more students back to in-person learning and reemerging from this crisis even stronger than we were before," said Secretary Cardona. "With the American Rescue Plan, schools and districts now have access to unprecedented resources that will enable them to ensure proper ventilation and maintain healthy learning and working environments. At the Department, we are committed to helping communities identify how to use these resources quickly and effectively as they prepare to welcome all students back to in-person learning this fall."
The resource outlines how schools can invest ARP funds, as well as previous rounds of relief funding, to take immediate action to improve indoor air quality, such as the inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrading of projects in school facilities. This can include system upgrades, filtering, purification, and other air cleaning fans, and window and door repair.
While these investments can provide an important foundation for schools to take action now to improve indoor air quality, more must be done to improve the infrastructure in schools across the country. That's why President Biden has proposed additional resources in his Build Back Better agenda to rebuild our nation's public schools. Visit ed.gov/coronavirus to see how schools can use ARP funds to improve indoor air quality, and learn more about the infrastructure proposals in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, so that they are safe and healthy places of learning, energy efficient, and have the technology and labs our students need to prepare for jobs in tomorrow's economy.
Click here to learn more about the infrastructure proposals in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.