During these uncertain times where a worldwide pandemic is in play, many people wonder what they can do to keep the air in their homes safe and healthy. While it’s been found that fresh air can help rid airborne coronavirus droplets, there are numerous measures available should pollen season make it close to impossible to open windows and air out one’s home, especially here in the south!
Ideally, people should often be in open and private places outdoors, and be able to open windows to dissipate any germ clouds or viral droplets inside. Outside, air circulation easily disperses airborne viruses. Indoor spaces need to be aired frequently to reduce the concentration of viruses. Yet, the mild spring and summer breezes in the southern USA coat us in yellow dust. How can airing out indoor spaces be effectively and cleanly done without bringing pollen indoors?
In order to combat the three major types of indoor contaminants: germs and other microorganisms (airborne viruses), particles and allergens, along with odors and chemical gases (such as cooking, cigarette smoke, and household chemicals) you may need more than open windows and fresh air.
The Science of Spreading Airborne Disease
Many viruses, such as COVID-19, are spread through sneezes or coughs. One study found that under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs and even exhaling can travel more than twenty-six feet and will linger and travel in the air for several minutes up to hours. Let that sink in.
Droplets will fall due to size and particles around them in the air, with the most visible falling in a six-foot range. Keep in mind, there are still particles and droplets moving in the air after the six foot “social distance” range. This finding was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The droplets can be as small and invisible as one micron, while the thickness of a typical human hair is around fifty-five to 120 microns.
This study focused on moving air and the cloud created by a sneeze, cough, or exhale. These actions cause various-sized liquid drops to fall onto surfaces, while other droplets can be trapped in a cloud that can travel through a room with pathogen-bearing drops. How far the cloud and its droplets travel depend on several factors, such as environment, humidity, temperature, and a person’s physiology. Coughs typically fall into the nineteen feet and under range.
In a 2009 World Health Organization report, it was stated that when someone coughs, they typically spray up to 3,000 droplets, but a sneeze packs a larger blow at up to 40,000 droplets. And a sneeze can travel at 100 feet per second!
Given these points, it isn’t known how many virus-laden particles people with COVID-19 virus might give off in droplets, including the micron-size droplets that stay in the air. These drops are referred to as aerosols, and along with other very small particles can be hanging around in the air for several hours in air currents.
The Lingering Effects of Aerosols
These floating aerosols can stay suspended long enough for someone to pass through them and inhale a virus particle. For example, imagine spraying a can of aerosol hairspray or deodorant. While most of the cloud lingers, some falls to the counter or ground. Later, we may see a fine mist of dried droplets or even smell the hairspray or deodorant in an area away from where the spray originated. The same principle applies to a sneeze, cough, or exhale.
Without enough air circulation to disperse a cloud of germs, a concentrated environment of air borne droplets can linger in homes. Virus drops are trapped in air for some time and can remain locally concentrated without fresh, outdoor air circulating in one’s home.
Droplets expelled from the nose, mouth or other body areas that contain viruses are able to reach air circulation systems inside buildings. A sampling taken from air vents showed positive results of airborne viruses. In a multi-group contributing study, JAMA found that viruses also live in exhaust outlets. Finding the virus in air vents helped researchers conclude that the airborne COVID-19 virus is easily moved through ventilation systems. This is a contributing factor for the urgency of closing public facilities and taking strident measures to clean these facilities. While these findings ramp up the concerns and dangers for those caring for COVID-19 patients, there are plenty of things to do to improve the quality of indoor air.
What are the Best Air Purifiers to Protect My Home?
One immediately helpful, and long-term, solution is to install an air purification system. These machines are streamline, efficient, and reflect the best in technology and innovation.
For example, the Aprilaire Model 5000 Air Purifier, which uses a combination of electrostatic charge and a traditional air filter, has been shown to provide the best cleaning over time. It also requires less maintenance when compared to three leading competitors.
In addition, this air purifier significantly reduces small particles in the air like tobacco smoke, smog, and mold spores. The Model 5000 can even capture viral particles as small as 0.01 microns, like the airborne COVID-19 virus.
It was also discovered that, after running for six months, it still removed 98% of bacteria from the air, and 99% of pollen while the competition models only removed as little as 60% of bacteria, and 46% of pollen under the same conditions. Additionally, the Aprilaire Model 5000 catches dust and pet dander, both known asthma and allergy triggers.
Another product, the Reme Halo in-duct air purifier uses ionized hydrogen peroxide molecules to clean the air in your home. The Reme Halo is installed in ductwork and works with the existing Home Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system to reduce bacteria, mold spores, viruses, contaminants, and odors. The ionized molecules pass their charge on to pollen, dander, and dust in the air, causing these particles to stick together in large clumps, making it easier for a return filter to catch.
Another noteworthy product is PristineAir’s Polarized-Media Electronic Air Cleaner (EAC) which uses a low current of electricity to create a safely polarized electric field. As particles pass through this field, they pick up a charge that causes them to stick to the filter. The Polarized-Media EAC captures a wide range of very small particles which are linked to asthma and allergies. Among particles captured are skin flakes and hairs, dust mite feces, pet dander, smoke and dust.
Another technology designed to disinfect your coils, keeping them free of mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses is the BLU QR UV Stick Light. This a device created by the company that has led the way in ultraviolet systems for industries and hospitals. RGF Environmental Group, designed the “Blue Stick,” which is installed inside of the HVAC unit. The ultraviolet light works constantly so when air circulates through the HVAC system, harmful microorganisms are not picked up and distributed from your coils. This method of air purification keeps indoor air better smelling and cleaner in addition to relieving allergy symptoms that can be caused by mold spores in your HVAC system.
SEE ALSO: WHY DO I NEED AN AIR PURIFIER?
Freshly Circulating Air Can Eliminate Viruses
Even though in Alabama open windows commonly bring in pollen, fine particulate dusty, red dirt, and smoke from wood fires burning, circulating fresh air through your home can decrease the presence of airborne viral particles. This air circulation, or wind, causes the germ cloud and its viral payload to be dispersed and diluted. For homes and buildings, make sure that indoor spaces are aired frequently, in addition to considering an air purification system. Air your home after a pollen cleansing rain and use a whole house air purification system when unable to circulate fresh air through open windows. Using an indoor air purifier and cleaner reduces airborne viruses, dust, and odors. Perhaps the best solution is to do both.