SafeTraces Launches HVAC Safety Verification Service With EHS, IAQ and Engineering Leaders

UL, Tetra Tech, RHP Risk Management, Citadel EHS, and Universal Engineering Sciences will be flagship partners in delivering the first safety verification service of HVAC system performance focused on airborne pathogens.

Date: July 15, 2021

PLEASANTON, Calif.July 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces, Inc., a market leader in DNA-based safety technology solutions, today launched its HVAC Safety Verification Service for commercial real estate, education, healthcare, and other built environments. This service will be available immediately for building owners and operators via flagship partners UL, Tetra Tech, RHP Risk Management, Citadel EHS, Universal Engineering Sciences, and a national network of certified professionals. Reflecting the need to test and verify HVAC safety on a recurring basis in order to effectively combat respiratory infection from SARS-CoV-2 and other airborne diseases, this service will build on SafeTraces’ groundbreaking veriDART® solution, currently being employed by major corporate, commercial real estate, and government clients across the United States.

Respiratory infections represent one of the most significant public health risks in the world. COVID-19 has been responsible for nearly 4 million deaths, nearly 200 million cases, and an estimated $1 trillion in monthly economic loss globally. Beyond COVID-19, the annual direct and indirect cost of influenza and other respiratory infections has been estimated at over $50 billion just in the United States alone. Scientific evidence indicates that ventilation, filtration, and disinfection are critical mitigation strategies. However, most public buildings lack the ability to test and verify performance of their HVAC and mechanical systems for airborne pathogens due to limitations in existing diagnostic assessment tools.

Offered quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, SafeTraces’ HVAC Safety Verification Service leverages the company’s veriDART solution. Developed with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and leading technical experts, veriDART employs patented DNA-tagged bioaerosol tracers that safely simulate respiratory emission of airborne pathogens in real-world spaces. Resulting data helps identify potential infection hotspots, verify ventilation and filtration system performance for mitigating occupational exposures to airborne pathogens, and inform critical safety, engineering, and financial decisions with independent, science-based, performance data.

SafeTraces’ HVAC Safety Verification Service addresses a number of urgent needs for building owners and operators: guiding major capital investments and operating expenditures, satisfying increasing federal and state OSHA regulatory compliance requirements, enhancing existing IAQ and IEQ programs, gaining credits for leading building certification and verification programs, reducing insurance premiums and legal liability, and incorporating findings into employee and tenant communications to strengthen public confidence in workplace safety.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically exposed a problem in plain sight: how unprepared and vulnerable many public buildings are to transmission of airborne pathogens due to inadequate ventilation, filtration, and other critical engineering controls,” said Erik Malmstrom, CEO of SafeTraces. “SafeTraces is thrilled to partner with UL, Tetra Tech, RHP Risk Management, Citadel EHS, Universal Engineering Sciences, and a national network of certified professionals in order to provide a powerful, practical, and cost-effective service to regularly test and verify the health and safety of real-world spaces in a way that has never been possible before and that will ultimately save lives and money.”

“Tetra Tech is pleased to be a strategic partner with SafeTraces,” said Tetra Tech CEO Dan Batrack. “We look forward to providing our clients with this advanced testing technology that supports our High Performance Buildings Group’s mission of healthy and sustainable projects.”

“The use of veriDART’s DNA-tracer technology allows RHP Risk Management’s Industrial Hygienists to test and validate the efficacy of building ventilation systems at controlling indoor aerosol mobility,” said Jacob Persky, Principal of RHP Risk Management. “With this technology RHP provides clients with actionable data to quantify the risk reduction provided by improved engineering controls like filter upgrades or increased amounts of outside air. The technology also helps to identify ‘hot spots’ and areas of concern where system improvements are needed. The technology behind veriDART® puts RHP’s ventilation assessment services at the forefront of the IH profession and gives our clients peace of mind when managing buildings and worksites in a post-COVID world.”

“Citadel EHS is proud to partner with SafeTraces to deliver their HVAC Safety Verification Services, leveraging the groundbreaking veriDART® solution, the market leading solution for verifying safe indoor airflow,” said Loren Witkin, CEO of Citadel EHS. “For the past nearly 30 years, Citadel EHS has provided science-based, cost-effective solutions to our clients to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their employees, vendors, guests, and visitors. Our strategic partnership with SafeTraces provides Citadel and our clients with a unique and truly cutting-edge diagnostic tool to make informed decisions.  As we like to say, SafeTraces makes the invisible, visible. ”

“COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we look at indoor air quality, and our clients are looking for ways to best assess their HVAC systems for both performance efficacy and optimization in removing infectious agents,” said Michelle McIntyre, Corporate Director of Occupational Health & Safety at Universal Engineering Sciences. “We are excited to include veriDART® as part of our comprehensive indoor air quality service offerings to help our clients maintain a healthy and safe workplace for their employees.”

About SafeTraces, Inc.
SafeTraces is committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the medicines we take by harnessing the power of DNA. We provide market-leading safety technology solutions for indoor air quality and safety, sanitation verification, and food and pharmaceutical traceability. Learn more at www.safetraces.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

This post originally appeared on PR Newswire. Read it here.

COVID-19 Implications of the Physical Interaction of Artificial Fog on Respiratory Aerosols

Written by Matthew Loss, Mark Katchen, Ilan Arvelo, Phil Arnold, Mona Shum

This content originally appeared on Medwin Publishers.  Access it here.

Positioning For Growth In The Healthy Buildings Technology Market

Report by Verdantix | June 2021
Excerpts provided by SafeTraces

SafeTraces is excited to have been included in a recent report by Verdantix, an independent market research leader, which highlights how Healthy Buildings have emerged as a major trend in the Smart Buildings market.

According to Verdanitx: “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in healthy buildings has increased dramatically amongst employers and building technology providers, and as a result, is emerging as a major trend in the smart buildings market. This report examines the existing and emerging drivers that are propelling the trend for healthy buildings today, provides an overview of the technology landscape, offers vendors advice about capitalizing on this trend, and predicts the future direction. Smart building technology vendors should use this report to inform their healthy buildings product development and go-to-market strategies.”

Verdantix includes that:

“Even before the pandemic, there was growing evidence highlighting the business benefits of healthier buildings. For example, research conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that doubling the standard specified indoor ventilation rate of 20 cubic feet per minute per person increased employee cognitive function, equivalent to a salary increase of $6,500 per employee per year. Healthy buildings also have the potential to add value for asset owners. A 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study found that in the US, healthy buildings achieve a rental premium of between 4.4% and 7.7% more per square foot than similar nearby non-certified and non-registered properties.”

“Real estate and human resources (HR) executives are starting to deploy indoor environmental sensors to gauge the effectiveness of new ventilation strategies and give employees peace of mind about the health of their workplaces. Firms are primarily looking to monitor IAQ, but other metrics, such as lighting, noise and temperature, are also important, to ensure occupant comfort. In our 2020 global survey, we found that 59% of real estate executives are already planning new investment in air quality sensors and analytics, to gain visibility on air quality[…] SafeTraces and UL offer services for verifying IAQ and the performance of HVAC systems.”

 

Verdantix subscribers can access the full report here.

 

SafeTraces delivers veriDART®, the market-leading solution for verifying safe indoor airflow. If you have any questions about how veriDART verifies engineering controls and HVAC performance for airborne pathogens to keep people safe in any indoor environment, reach out to us today.

Healthy Air Episode #13

Episode #13
Innovation in Indoor Air Quality | Marwa Zaatari

In this episode, Marwa talks about the innovation in air quality and how it took a pandemic to start discussions about indoor air quality. She also discusses the struggle to fix air quality in schools and how parents need to hold schools accountable. Marwa encourages listeners to challenge their schools and ask them about ventilation, filtration, and air cleaning.

Dr. Marwa Zaatari is Chief Science Officer at D ZINE Partners and Co-chair of enVerid Systems’ advisory board. She leads the research and development of “Air as a Service” around heat exchanger coils, ventilation, filtration, and indoor air quality measurements. Her work continues to advance building science methods and assessing performance-based procedures to design and operate buildings to optimize energy and people efficiency. Zaatari has extensive experience in quantifying the transport of indoor air pollutants, building energy environmental management, and assessing performance-based procedures of HVAC ventilation and air cleaning. Zaatari earned a Ph.D. in Architectural and Environmental Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on the built environment and a Master’s degree in Engineering Management from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, with a focus on energy management. Zaatari is a board member at the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and has been an ASHRAE distinguished lecturer and a member of several ASHRAE Committees, including the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force and a voting member of Standard 62.1.

Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Marwa’s background [1:00]
  • D ZINE Partners’ mission and focus [6:57]
  • What motivated Marwa to be active in USGBC and ASHRAE [9:50]
  • How the pandemic started the discussion about indoor air quality [12:44]
  • COVID: the mode of transmission [15:28]
  • The use of electronic air cleaning equipment in buildings [18:06]
  • Marwa’s sense of the science over a year into the pandemic [23:50]
  • The struggle to fix air quality in schools [30:14]
  • Marwa’s predictions of the future’s popular and vital technologies [33:50]
  • D ZINE Partners’ areas of innovation [36:43]
  • Marwa’s predictions on building changes in the next ten years [39:26]
  • How D ZINE Partners stays on top of the market pulse [41:48]

Resources:

QUOTES:

“My biggest worry is that schools will spend all of their money and still not have good air quality in their schools.”

“There’s a big gap between disease prevention and having healthy buildings. It took a pandemic to start discussions about indoor air quality.”

“It sounds small, but making a change to standards is extremely impactful to the world.”

“The main mode of transmission of COVID is the airborne route.”

“There is finally a call for air to be safe, just like we expect our food and water to be safe.”

“The last thing you want is to implement a solution for air quality and then, later on, discover you can’t maintain it due to costs.”

“Parents need to be involved in holding schools accountable. Challenge your schools and ask them about ventilation, filtration, and air cleaning.”

ASPIRE (Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in RE) Launches

New Consortium “Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in Real Estate” (ASPIRE) Launches, Provides Framework for Measurable, Sustainable Indoor Air Quality

Founding members include Awair, Clockworks Analytics, enVerid Systems, SafeTraces, and System2 Consulting

Boston, MA – June 14, 2021– Five leading indoor air quality (IAQ) organizations announced today the formation of a new consortium, the Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in Real Estate (ASPIRE), with the goal of helping commercial and institutional buildings sustainably achieve indoor air quality. ASPIRE aims to encourage a more comprehensive, performance-based and data-driven approach to IAQ for building owners, managers and operators. The founding consortium members include Awair, Clockworks Analytics, enVerid Systems, SafeTraces, and System2 Consulting.

“ASPIRE’s founding members share a vision that buildings should provide a positive occupant experience, promote health and safety, and operate efficiently and sustainably; and we believe that IAQ is an intrinsic component of all three of these objectives,” said Aaron Lapsley, Principal & Founder of System2 Consulting. “Despite widespread claims in the marketplace, we know that there is no easy-button, silver-bullet solution that will fully address IAQ in every building. Instead, ASPIRE aims to encourage a performance-based framework that will help building stakeholders make well-informed decisions and implement practical solutions for achieving healthy air quality in a manner that minimizes or eliminates the trade-offs with energy efficiency.”

As part of its charter, ASPIRE will provide market education on leading practices related to indoor air quality and its intersection with sustainability. ASPIRE’s framework addresses five objectives:

  1. Monitor and improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and ventilation systems
  2. Measure and reduce pathogen transmission and illness risk
  3. Reduce energy costs and carbon emissions
  4. Demonstrate success and leadership through certification
  5. Direct investment to the highest value opportunities and solutions

Nexus Labs, a smart building industry community, media and education group that publishes podcasts and newsletters on smart building technology, will introduce ASPIRE on the first episode of its new monthly broadcast series on June 16th at 11am ET. Hosted by James Dice, Nexus Labs’ founder, the webinar “A Data Driven Approach to IAQ” will feature a discussion of the consortium’s vision, goals, and framework. Register for the free webinar here.

“We look forward to a discussion with these five companies and expert IAQ voices that cuts through the hype to offer insights on how to make indoor environmental quality as measurable and actionable as energy and water usage in a building,” said James Dice, Founder, Nexus Labs. “Organizations are eager for an approach that mitigates pathogens and contaminants of concern such as CO2, VOCs, PM2.5, and where IAQ data can be tracked, shared and acted upon, in a context that meets ESG goals.”

“Every day our team at AirRated sees firsthand the benefits of using data to drive decisions for building design and operation to deliver good indoor air quality,” said Francesca Brady, CEO of AirRated. “Our AirScore certification serves as the quantitative benchmark against best practice guidance for IAQ. In many cases it also acts as validation of investment in building systems and clean air technologies/products that aim to create healthy, productive spaces that occupants of the built environment deserve. This data point has been a kitemark both for prospective and current building users to refer to when looking to understand the quality of indoor air in buildings. We are witnessing the industry shift its focus to performance-based certifications and standards, with tangible, meaningful and actionable results. That is why I am happy to support the ASPIRE consortium in their goal of promoting and educating the industry on a more comprehensive and information-first approach to improving and maintaining good indoor air quality.”

“Post-pandemic, the real-estate industry has learned it needs to shift rapidly towards performance-based air quality standards, measured all day, every day,” said Raefer Wallis, Founder of RESET. “Achieving this will require close collaboration between solution providers that can deliver measurable air quality results, without losing sight of global climate goals. This is exactly what ASPIRE was formed to achieve and we hope it will have a much much-needed catalyzing effect across the industry.”

Awair

“Our mission at Awair is to ensure everyone can breathe safely anywhere indoors,” said Dustin DeVan, CEO of Awair. “IAQ requires management on a real-time basis, as well as having the insights and integrations to address issues quickly. We are excited to join such a collaborative team to democratize air data and to ensure people’s safety, particularly as indoor air matters now more so than ever post-pandemic.”

Clockworks Analytics

“Increased awareness of the critical role of IAQ on building and occupant health – coupled with a proliferation of IAQ solutions, standards, and data collection over the past year – has resulted in a large education gap,” said Alex Grace, VP of Business Development at Clockworks Analytics. “We are excited to join with leaders in the building performance and IAQ space through ASPIRE and share our expertise in fault detection and diagnostics in order to help consumers make more informed IAQ decisions in their buildings.”

enVerid Systems 

“There has long been a tension between achieving indoor air quality goals and energy efficiency and sustainability goals,” said Christian Weeks, CEO of enVerid Systems. “Buildings now need to solve for both. Working as part of ASPIRE we hope to educate building owners and operators on the opportunities to adopt performance-based design standards and advanced filtration solutions to enable healthy and sustainable buildings.”

SafeTraces

“The global pandemic has put a spotlight on the critical importance of IAQ to public health, as well as the insufficiency of our current paradigm for IAQ systems, regulations, and standards in public buildings,” said Erik Malmstrom, CEO of SafeTraces. “SafeTraces is thrilled to join forces with the most innovative technology companies in the built environment and to leverage our technology for advancing performance-based, data-driven metrics for combatting indoor respiratory infection.”

This post originally appeared on aspireiaq.com. Read it here.

Healthy Air Episode #12

Episode #12
Operating in a New Normal | Paul de la Port

In this episode, Paul talks about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and gives advice on selecting an air cleaning system. He also speaks about upgrading aging HVAC systems and choosing the right level of coverage. Lastly, he discusses Omni CleanAir’s two business segments, their response to COVID, and how their culture is built on learning.

Paul de la Port is the President of Omni CleanAir. Since 1988, their solutions have been deployed to high-stakes applications, keeping people safe from some of the most dangerous airborne pollutants and pathogens. Omni CleanAir’s range of industrial-grade air purification solutions have resulted in 10s of 1000s of installs in the US and abroad. They are used in healthcare facilities for infection control, facilities affected by wildfires, for nuclear facility maintenance and decommissioning, and for hazardous environmental remediation and abatement. He’s held executive roles with companies including Danaher, GE, and Dresser. His last corporate role was President of Fluke’s Industrial and Digital Systems businesses.

Paul is passionate about leading breakthrough innovation and strategic transformations, hands-on product leadership, and commercial execution.
Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Paul’s background [1:01]
  • The scope and scale of the Omni CleanAir business [4:34]
  • How Omni CleanAir’s solutions differentiate from their competition [10:32]
  • The air purification industry as a whole is 50 to 75% illegitimate [13:01]
  • The types of customers and partners which are most strategic [15:43]
  • The right level of coverage for a facility with multiple floors [17:16]
  • Paul’s predictions of the demand for air purification solutions in the next ten years [19:38]
  • Paul’s take on the indoor air quality discussion and level of general prioritization in the US [21:28]
  • Paul and Omni CleanAir’s COVID-19 experience [22:31]
  • How Omni CleanAir stays on top of the market pulse [23:43]

Resources:

QUOTES:

We’re energized by working on a purposeful problem. And I think this is really going to matter, as buildings and companies figure out how to operate in a new normal.”

“We’re not a COVID company because there’s been a need since before COVID.”

“When the stakes are this high, why would you take the chance?”

“Our products do what they say they do, are backed up by data, are grounded in proven technologies, and we’re very transparent about that.”

“Omni CleanAir’s goal is to bring 30 years of technology know-how, experience, and applications to everyday workspaces without the need for professional expertise and installation.”

“If you can’t understand the specifications or the claims, and those claims can’t be backed up by data in plain English. That’s a red flag!”

Ventilation in Residential Care Environments

Project led by Dr. Kevin Grosskopf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with contributions from Roger Lautz, P.E. of Affiliated Engineers Incorporated, Phil Arnold of SafeTraces, Dr. Ehsan Mousavi-Rizi of Clemson University, and Dr. Josephine Lau of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. 

This content originally appeared on nrel.gov. Access it here.

From Best Practice to Policy

Developing a COVID-19 Prevention Program

Written by Mark Drozdov | April 12, 2021

For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized life around the world, particularly in the built environment. According to a paper posted in April 2020 to the preprint website medRxiv, COVID-19 infection is 18 times more likely indoors than outdoors. The virus presents a lethal, unpredictable health and safety risk due to its high degree of infectiousness, its multiple modes of transmission, and its high incidence of asymptomatic infections (approximately 40–45 percent) that make contact tracing and other response strategies more challenging to conduct. While vaccines provide cause for optimism, their less than 100 percent efficacy, the mistakes in mass vaccination efforts, and rapid mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will necessitate a comprehensive approach to infection control that does not exclusively rely on vaccination for the foreseeable future.

This article highlights the evolution of scientific knowledge regarding COVID-19 from initial outbreak to policymaking and identifies the best industrial hygiene practices that IHs in the field should follow regarding COVID-19 risk mitigation.

Developing and implementing a strong infection control plan has never been more urgent, not just as a matter of best practice but increasingly as a matter of regulatory compliance. In 2020, OSHA provided recommended guidance, allowing states and counties to establish their own requirements. The ensuing response was uneven, with some states like California, Oregon, Michigan, and Virginia promulgating emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 in workplaces while others relied on guidelines and recommendations. Critics charged that the overall OSHA response was fragmented, confusing, and ineffective, triggering worker complaints, mass outbreaks, and calls for reform.

As of early 2021, the Biden administration has signaled a much more active approach toward OSHA regulation, enforcement, and funding. On Jan. 21, President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” stating that the administration would:

  • provide revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • implement emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 deemed necessary by March 15
  • review OSHA enforcement efforts including short-, medium-, and long-term changes to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement
  • launch a national program to focus on OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest numbers of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles
  • coordinate with the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Engagement and all regional OSHA offices to conduct a multilingual outreach effort to workers

Concurrently, several states and counties have signaled a more aggressive approach to protecting worker health and safety. In late January 2021, Virginia became the first state to enact a permanent standard on COVID-19 in workplaces. Among other provisions, Virginia requires employers to comprehensively evaluate the hazards of all job tasks, create infectious disease preparedness and response plans, and maintain air handling systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and ASHRAE standards. Experts believe that Virginia could be a model for a forthcoming wave of federal and state-level OSHA permanent standards, complemented by heightened enforcement.

COVID-19 Prevention Program Development

In recently published guidance, OSHA noted that the most effective COVID-19 prevention programs involve conducting a hazard assessment; identifying measures that limit the spread of COVID-19; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home; and protecting workers who raise concerns about COVID-19 from retaliation.

For purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the first two aspects of COVID-19 prevention programs: hazard assessment and mitigation measures.

Hazard Assessment
According to OSHA, a hazard assessment, also referred to as a job hazard analysis or JHA, consists of the following process:

  1. collect existing information about workplace hazards
  2. inspect the workplace for safety hazards
  3. identify health hazards
  4. conduct incident investigations
  5. identify hazards associated with emergency and nonroutine situations
  6. characterize the nature of identified hazards, identify interim control measures, and prioritize the hazards for control

OSHA has divided job tasks into four potential risk exposure levels:

  • Lower risk: Jobs that do not require close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with other people. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers.
  • Medium risk: Jobs that require either frequent close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) or sustained close contact with other people in areas with community transmission.
  • High risk: Jobs with a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Very high risk: Jobs with a very high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of SARS-CoV-2 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures.

Mitigation Measures: Limiting Spread of COVID-19
Subsequently, an employer must implement a hazard prevention and control process consisting of the following steps:

  1. identify control options
  2. select control options
  3. develop and update a hazard control plan
  4. select controls to protect workers during nonroutine operations and emergencies
  5. implement selected controls in the workplace
  6. follow up to confirm that controls are effective

Applying the hierarchy of controls for COVID-19 is fundamental to hazard prevention and control. Case reports and epidemiological studies have indicated that the primary means of SARS-CoV-2 disease transmission is the indoor spread of exhaled droplet aerosols. Consequently, the AIHA guidance document “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls” states, “Engineering controls that can keep infectious aerosols at very low levels indoors offer the greatest promise to protect non-healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations as we reopen our businesses and workplaces.”

Figure 1. Relative risk reduction of engineering controls and PPE. Source: AIHA, “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls”.

AIHA emphasizes the advantage of engineering controls relative to administrative controls and PPE on the grounds of efficacy and cost. An analysis in AIHA’s guidance document demonstrates that engineering controls can achieve a greater reduction in transmission risk than N95 respirators. Ventilation that provides 4.5 air changes per hour, a rate achievable in many buildings, reduces COVID-19 transmission to the same extent as N95 respirators. The reality is that engineering controls are less prone to human error than administrative controls and PPE. AIHA also highlights the high cost of PPE, which, in addition to PPE shortages and supply interruptions, makes off-the-shelf, reliable, and effective engineering controls better long-term solutions for preventing disease transmission. And as I stated in my article “Managing Indoor Air Quality Amid COVID-19,” which was published in the October 2020 issue of Restoration and Remediation magazine, “It is critical to remember that each indoor environment is unique; conditions within each indoor environment are dynamic, and there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for infection control.”

Mitigation Measures: Dilution Ventilation and Filtration
ASHRAE’s April 2020 position document on infectious aerosols (PDF) states that based on risk assessments, the use of specific HVAC strategies supported by the evidence-based literature should be considered, including the following:

  • Enhanced filtration (higher minimum efficiency reporting value [MERV] filters over code minimums in occupant-dense and/or higher-risk spaces)
  • Upper-room UVGI (with possible in-room fans) as a supplement to supply airflow
  • Local exhaust ventilation for source control
  • Personalized ventilation systems for certain high-risk tasks
  • Portable, free-standing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters
  • Temperature and humidity control

ASHRAE, AIHA, and other leading authorities emphasize that selecting, installing, and evaluating specific engineering controls should be based on a site-specific risk assessment in consultation with “a knowledgeable mechanical engineer and industrial hygienist familiar with ventilation controls and infection control,” as explained in the AIHA guidance document. Every building is unique, conditions and risk are dynamic, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Nevertheless, research published in the American Journal of Infection Control indicates that dilution ventilation and filtration emerge in peer-reviewed scientific literature and public health guidance as the most consistently recommended engineering controls, not only for SARS-CoV-2 but also for other respiratory viruses like influenza, tuberculosis, and rhinovirus. The logic is clear and compelling: increasing outdoor air intakes, air exchange rates, and filtration levels to the highest level an HVAC system can sustainably handle reduces the time and space for airborne pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 to linger, spread, and infect others, similar to the “infinite dilution” benefits of outdoor environments.

For generations, healthcare facilities have embedded dilution ventilation and filtration in their infection control systems and controls. Now, the pandemic is forcing non-healthcare facilities to operate based on the same core principles, representing a significant departure from traditional building operations optimized for cost, efficiency, and occupant comfort. Meanwhile, federal and state OSHA authorities have thrust ventilation and filtration controls front and center in their updated guidelines, recommendations, and standards given scientific consensus on the importance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Verification of Engineering Controls
Even within the scope of dilution ventilation and filtration-focused controls, the hazard prevention and control process is not straightforward due to often-competing health and safety, engineering, and financial considerations. For example, what is the relative risk reduction of increasing the volume of outside air, installing enhanced filtration in central HVAC systems, and using standalone HEPA-filtered air cleaners? Which of these controls are possible within the mechanical system’s design and operational capabilities? Will increased outside air introduce high levels of humidity, thereby causing other health and safety risks like mold and bacterial growth in the HVAC system, ducts, and occupied areas of the building? What is the capability of fans in the HVAC system to handle increased pressure load from increased filtration, and what will be the implications for maintenance, filter changes, and air leakage around the enhanced filtration? And are the benefits of these controls worth the costs associated with implementing them?

Moreover, the lack of a widely accepted quantitative standard for ventilation endorsed by OSHA, ASHRAE, and other leading authorities creates further ambiguity for developing, implementing, evaluating, and enforcing critical engineering controls.

Ideally, robust analytical tools and diagnostic solutions should guide the hazard prevention and control process and help assess costs and benefits. However, the pandemic has exposed a critical gap in the toolbox of industrial hygienists and mechanical engineers. Existing solutions fall into two main categories: quantitatively rigorous theoretical approaches like computational fluid dynamic modeling and Wells-Riley mathematical solutions, and qualitatively rigorous applied approaches heavily reliant on expert feedback. What has been lacking is a quantitatively rigorous applied approach capable of verifying the efficacy of engineering controls in real-world indoor environments.

However, technology-enabled solutions are emerging to fill this gap. One recent example is a diagnostic solution leveraging DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic airborne pathogen mobility and exposure levels. This type of technology-enabled solution has the potential to integrate a layer of science- and data-based verification into the hazard prevention and control process and to round out traditional approaches.

Critical Components

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a once-in-a-century public health risk, which is particularly acute in the built environment. In response, federal and state-level OSHA authorities are advancing increased regulation and enforcement actions to protect workers. Identification, assessment, and prevention of hazards, and the implementation of controls, are critical for developing and implementing infection control plans that are consistent with best practices and compliant with regulations. Given the airborne transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, dilution ventilation and enhanced filtration should be critical components of a hazard control plan, strengthened by emerging technology that can verify efficacy throughout the decision-making process. IH and OEHS professionals should employ the scientific knowledge gained during this pandemic by utilizing the best industrial hygiene practices and means to verify ventilation and filtration controls as part of COVID-19 prevention plans. We are all under an obligation to apply effective infection control and management tools that demonstrate the effectiveness of the actions taken.

This article originally appeared in the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) publication, the Synergist. Read it here.

Resources

AIHA: “Joint Consensus Statement on Addressing the Aerosol Transmission of SARS CoV-2 and Recommendations for Preventing Occupational Exposures” (PDF, February 2021).
AIHA: “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls” (PDF, August 2020).
ASHRAE: “ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols” (PDF, April 2020).
OSHA: Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, “Hazard Identification and Assessment.
Restoration & Remediation: “How to Manage Indoor Air Quality Amid COVID-19 (October 2020).
Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board: “Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19” (PDF, January 2021).
The White House: “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” (January 2021).

Artificial Fog Does Not Appear To Increase Airborne COVID-19 Disease Transmission Risk In Entertainment Productions

New study, sponsored in part by IATSA Local 891, shows that artificial fog may even reduce levels of suspended respiratory aerosols

Date: April 6, 2021

PLEASANTON, Calif., April 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A new study released by Aura Health and Safety, The Phylmar Group, and SafeTraces, Inc, a market leader in DNA-based technology solutions, suggests that artificial fog has no negative impact on suspension of aerosols in entertainment venues and productions. This is great news for the film, television and live entertainment industries, with a US market size in excess of $700 billion.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a once-in-a-century crisis that has led to unprecedented health and safety challenges in the built environment, including the entertainment industries. Scientific, medical, and public health experts, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), have stated that SARS-CoV-2 is a highly infectious virus that is primarily transmitted via respiratory droplets and aerosols. Indoor environments face significant airborne exposure risk, with enclosed areas, prolonged exposure, and poor ventilation high risk factors common in many entertainment venues.

As the entertainment industry, trade associations, and labor unions prepare to reopen venues and stage new productions, there has been significant concern whether artificial fog increases the airborne transmission risk of diseases such as COVID-19. Artificial fog is widely used in the entertainment industries to enhance lighting, as a visual effect, and to create a specific sense of mood or atmosphere as it disperses across densely occupied venues such as concert halls and theaters, rendering it a suspected risk factor for airborne disease transmission.

For the joint study “COVID-19 Implications of the Physical Interaction of Artificial Fog on Respiratory Aerosols“, Aura Health and Safety occupational and public health scientists used the aerosol-based veriDART® solution by SafeTraces, the most powerful risk assessment tool for airborne pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. It leverages DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic aerosol mobility and exposure in order to identify high-risk infection hotspots and transmission routes, assess ventilation and filtration efficacy, and inform remediations with a rigorous science-based, data-driven methodology.

The scientists released unique DNA-tagged tracer particles with and without glycerin- or glycol-containing artificial fog into a closed environment. They took air samples at regular intervals to determine DNA tracer degradation over time. The study found that none of the artificial fog applications increased the time that respiratory aerosols remained suspended in the air. In fact, artificial fog containing glycol actually decreased suspension time, indicating that this fog application reduces the time respiratory aerosols remain suspended in the air to impact disease transmission.

The highly significant finding that artificial fog does not increase, and may even reduce, the risk of airborne transmission of diseases from respiratory aerosols has important implications, as it directly affects the entertainment industries’ readiness to re-open and their ability to generate revenue and create jobs.

“Over the past several years the use of atmospheric smoke and fog has been on the rise with many in our membership expressing concern over health concerns around the products used, and any lasting effects of its use. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry in March of 2020 one of the many concerns brought forward to Local 891 – concerns heard throughout the industry North America wide – was, what happens when someone who may have the disease releases aerosols into the fog on a set?” asked Keith Woods, President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSA) Local 891 labor union.”Given this, it seemed natural to support a study of this sort to help get some answers to this most pressing of concerns. It gives us some relief to know that artificial fog does not appear to allow the released aerosols to suspend more than normal,” stated Woods.

About SafeTraces:
SafeTraces is committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the medication we take by harnessing the power of DNA. We provide market leading, DNA-enabled diagnostic solutions for indoor air quality, food and pharmaceutical traceability, and sanitation verification. Information is available at www.safetraces.com.

About Aura Health and Safety:
Aura Health and Safety provides specialized industrial hygiene and environmental public health consulting to a range of industries. Aura has been working with the film and television industry for several years, conducting artificial fog research, indoor air quality investigations, and most recently COVID-19 plans. Information is available at www.aurahealthsafety.com.

About the Phylmar Group:
The Phylmar Group facilitates environmental health and safety/sustainability forums in the areas of biopharmaceuticals, apparel/ footwear and occupational health and safety. Phylmar monitors, analyzes and advocates during rule making regarding federal and state regulations, and members have a private channel for information exchange and networking along with opportunities for continuing professional education and mentoring. Information is available at www.phylmar.com.

This post originally appeared on PR Newswire. Read it here.

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