There has been a chorus of calls from industry groups across the globe seeking formal recognition of indoor air pollution as a risk to human health.
A member of the International Code Council NEHA Pandemic Task Force, Professor Geoff Hanmer, said regulatory reforms by government are crucial to improve air quality standards and to have clear air hygiene guidelines in place to keep both workplaces and the community safe.
Hammer pointed to the Belgium government as an example of recent reforms.
“In Belgium the government has mandated CO2 meters in bars and restaurants, which could be applied here in Australia,” Hanmer told CCN.
In areas where ventilation is inadequate, he said air purifiers could be used but they must meet minimum safety requirements such as a HEPA filter with an active carbon filter and UV-C sterilization.
A long list of HVAC organisations in the European Union joined forces to issue a formal statement calling for action. It included the European Association of Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning and Heat Pump Contractors, the European Association for Building Engineering Services and the European Ventilation Industry Association, just to name a few.
The statement said proper use of air quality systems will help reduce transmission of COVID19 in office spaces.
“However, the European Union does not currently recognise indoor air pollution as a risk to human health in the way it does outdoor pollution,” the statement said.
“Proper mechanical ventilation can reduce half the virus concentration by a factor of 10, and alternatives include window airing, air treatment technologies and Building Automation and Control Systems. But the lack of a coherent EU legislative framework for addressing indoor air pollution makes the upcoming revision of EU policies a key opportunity to support reduced air transmission of COVID-19.”
The statement proposes adding quality standards and policies to a range of relevant directives, frameworks, such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the Occupational Safety and Health Strategic Framework, and public procurement practices.
Recently commissioned research by Rentokil Initial shows four in five Australians (83 per cent) believe businesses have a responsibility to protect customers against health and hygiene risks, with two thirds of Australians (64 per cent) more likely to visit an indoor venue that has air hygiene protocols in place.
Three quarters of Australians (77 per cent) believe that protecting against COVID-19 airborne transmission risks is crucial to return to normal, as Australia grapples with the most infectious strain of COVID-19 to date.
Respondents identified shopping centres and hospitality venues (68% per cent, hotels and aged care facilities (67 per cent), medical practices (64 per cent), and workplaces (55 per cent) as the most at-risk venues for airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Dean of Science at University of Technology Sydney, Professor Bruce Milthorpe, said it is time to prioritise the reduction of aerosol transmission within these highly frequented indoor venues to end lockdown.
“Innovative solutions with proven credentials are a crucial step to help restore consumer confidence and pave the way to our new normal,” he said.
The research shows more than 70 per cent of Australians now understand that COVID-19 can spread through the air, with more than 9 in 10 Australians believing airborne pathogens present a moderate to high health risk.