Making Healthy Buildings Real: The Coming Revolution in Diagnostic Imaging Technology

The built environment stands at a 1967-like inflection point, when the invention of computed tomography (CT) revolutionized medicine

By Erik Malmstrom | October 4, 2021

How Diagnostic Imaging Technology Transformed Medicine

Over the past year, IAQ experts have described the COVID-19 pandemic as a watershed event, drawing historical analogies from Chadwick’s 1842 Sanitary Report that led the British government to organize clean water supplies and centralized sewage systems1 to the 1918 influenza pandemic that gave rise to modernist architecture2, innovations in steam radiators3, among other major long-lasting reforms to building design and operations.

However, a different historical analogy may be more appropriate, at least from a technology and innovation standpoint – Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s 1967 invention of the first computed tomography (CT) scanner. CT is considered one of the most important medical innovations in human history, advancing us from a largely superficial to an incredibly sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the human body.4 CT images display soft tissue contrasted with anatomic detail, exponentially enhancing diagnostic accuracy for detecting, measuring, and visualizing abnormalities in the body’s metabolic processes and physiological activities, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders. 

The Evolution of Medical Imaging Technology5

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s 1967 invention of the first computed tomography (CT) scanner is considered one of the most important medical innovations in human history, kicking off a series of breakthroughs in medical imaging technology and advancing us from a largely superficial to an incredibly sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the human body.

With over 100 million studies performed annually, CT has become the “modern doctor’s truth machine.”6 Moreover, CT kicked off a revolution in medical imaging, with major improvements in the efficacy, precision, and speed of CT itself in subsequent decades as well as the invention of complementary diagnostic technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Today, medical imaging is fundamental to “the entire health-care continuum, from wellness and screening, to early diagnosis, treatment selection, and follow-up,”7 representing a true step change advancement for the field.

How Diagnostic Imaging Technology Will Transform the Built Environment

In 2021, the built environment stands at a 1967-like inflection point, when technological breakthroughs will make “healthy buildings” real, not just a marketing gimmick. 

Indeed, the term “healthy buildings” implies that the building is human body-like in nature – a complex interconnected system with a core and shell (skeleton and skin), vital mechanical and HVAC systems (tissues and organs) that regulate core processes and activities such as airflow, ventilation and filtration (blood flow, biochemical function, absorption), all of which have direct health implications for the key system components – people (cells). 

Like medicine prior to CT, building doctors – architects, engineers, industrial hygienists, facilities professionals – have traditionally operated and continue to operate with an extremely limited and flawed toolbox for preventing airborne disease transmission, the invisible, deadly, and costly public health scourge that defines our times. This shortcoming has led to a shallow understanding of airflow, ventilation, and filtration, our essential controls for combating respiratory infection, and consequently a damaging breakdown in diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring for airborne disease transmission risk within buildings, leading to millions of preventable infections, billions of dollars of wasted spending and productivity, and billions of tons of avoidable carbon emissions. 

Air Balance Test Output8

Air balance test outputs and other existing diagnostics reports for ventilation and filtrations performance are not geared towards health and safety risk mitigation, have limited utility for addressing airborne disease transmission, and are often not visually digestible and intuitive.

Simply put, SafeTraces’ diagnostic imaging technology is as consequential for building health as CT, MRI, and PET have been for human health. Rooted in biosecurity and supported by the National Institutes of Health and world-class experts at MIT, Stanford, and other leading research institutions, our company has developed the first solution for testing and verifying indoor air/airflow safety and HVAC system performance for airborne disease exposure risk in real-world buildings.

SafeTraces Airflow, Ventilation, and Filtration Test Output

Heatmaps visualize airborne pathogen mobility, exposure levels, and ventilation and filtration system performance resulting from the safe, controlled release of patented DNA-tagged aerosol tracers in buildings.

Conceptually, SafeTraces’ technology is analogous to PET for buildings, leveraging patented and safe DNA-tagged aerosol tracers to detect, measure, and visualize abnormalities in airflow, ventilation, and filtration in real world indoor spaces (not software-based models), the foundations of healthy buildings and healthy people. The controlled release of our tracers simulate respiratory emissions and exposures to SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and other airborne diseases to: 

  • Identity potential infection hotspots and transmission pathways 
  • Measure ventilation and filtration system performance in removing infectious aerosols from the air 
  • Visualize analytics in heatmaps and other clear graphics that enable building owners, operators, service providers, and occupants to see the “invisible” and make better, smarter decisions

Commercial Application and Return on Investment (ROI)

Practically, our technology is employed in facility portfolios as a recurring preventative building health and measurement & verification (M&V) service to enhance:

  • Indoor environmental quality programs (including major building verifications and certifications)
  • Service and maintenance programs
  • Compliance and audit programs
  • Capital budgeting and planning
  • Public communications on workplace safety

What is the value of SafeTraces technology to our clients and partners, including Fortune 100 companies, leading commercial real estate owners and operators like the Irvine Company, Brookfield Properties, and JLL, and large public entities like the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and the State of California?

  • Health and Safety ROI: we quantifiably measure the exposure risk reduction for airborne pathogens provided by real world ventilation and filtration systems and infection control strategies. Does increasing outside air rates or MERV-level filters in central air handling units actually do anything? Which product model, size, position, and setting level is optimal for local filtration devices? Absent our technology, there is virtually no way to know. However, our technology holds the answers in order to proactively measure and manage risk, keep occupants safe, and communicate safety conditions and mitigation actions to employees, tenants, regulators, and other key stakeholders. 
  • Financial ROI: we optimize capital investments on HVAC and local ventilation and filtration upgrades, minimize cost penalties associated with increasing ventilation rates, filtration levels, and building flushes that can be upwards of 30%, and develop portfolio-level strategies for how and where to most effectively and cost-effectively spend money. In real terms, what does this mean for our clients? In many cases, saving millions if not tens of millions of dollars that would have otherwise been misdirected and wasted, and increasing the probability of getting tenants and employees back into otherwise unoccupied buildings, keeping them there safely, and avoiding depressed leasing levels and vacancies threatening the commercial real estate industry.
  • Sustainability ROI: we minimize carbon penalties associated with increasing ventilation rates, filtration levels, and building flushes, identify optimal points of health & safety and sustainability-focused IAQ, and develop resiliency strategies in order to react to extraordinary events like pandemics in a carbon-sensitive manner, especially important for clients committed to green building, decarbonization, and net zero programs. The real estate sector is responsible for 30% of global annual greenhouse gas (GHG) and 40% of global energy consumption, with the HVAC system accounting for a significant share of these numbers9. Our diagnostic assessment helps right-size ventilation rates and filtration levels for infection control while avoiding unnecessary energy usage and carbon emissions  

In sum, SafeTraces’ technology is central to the healthy building continuum in the same way that medical imaging technology is central to the healthcare continuum, dramatically sharpening diagnostic accuracy in order to protect occupants from airborne disease, better manage financial resources, and reduce carbon impacts of health & safety strategies. Moreover, the impact of our technology will be amplified by pooling data from millions of assessments within and across buildings over time under different conditions and correlating with other IAQ diagnostic data in order to strengthen the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring process through data science. 

Shifting the IAQ Paradigm: The Alliance for Sustainable and Practical IAQ in Real Estate (ASPIRE)

Moreover, SafeTraces is proud and excited to be a founding member of ASPIRE for three main reasons. 

First, we are deeply committed to ASPIRE’s mission to develop a new paradigm for IAQ that balances health & safety and sustainability via foundational knowledge, codes & standards, and solutions & analytics. 

Second, we have tremendous respect for ASPIRE’s market-leading proptech founding members and see huge synergies and potential between our technology and their complementary innovative technologies spanning IAQ sensors and analytics (Awair), fault detection and diagnostics (Clockwork Analytics), sustainable air purification (enVerid), and high performance building services (System2). 

Third, ASPIRE will be a powerful vehicle to advance the agenda for risk-based ventilation rates for infection control proposed by Lidia Morawska, Joseph Allen, William Bahnfleth et al,10 as well as reformed policies, regulations, and building codes and increased government funding for IAQ research and development.   

2021 has the potential to usher in an exciting new era for performance-based and data-driven IAQ, where public need, political will, and technological advancements meet the moment in the interest of public health and safety, financial responsibility, and sustainability. With one of the most groundbreaking technologies in IAQ, SafeTraces is eager to work with our sister ASPIRE members and other like-minded allies to make this potential a reality.

  1. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.abg2025
  2. https://slate.com/business/2020/04/coronavirus-architecture-1918-flu-cholera-modernism.html
  3. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/10/945136599/how-spanish-flu-pandemic-changed-home-heat-radiators
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6186003/pdf/rmmj-9-4-e0034.pdf
  5. https://sdbif.org/index/whats-the-difference-between-all-the-different-head-scans/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6186003/pdf/rmmj-9-4-e0034.pdf
  7.  Ibid
  8. https://kitchenairinc.com/test-and-balancing/
  9. https://www.schroders.com/en/insights/economics/does-an-emissions-scandal-await-the-real-estate-sector/
  10. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.abg2025

Health, Safety & Wellness in Commercial Real Estate’s New Normal

September 16, 2021 | By: Erik Malmstrom

As the latest spike in COVID-19 infections continues to complicate and in some cases derail return to office, school, and campus plans, I remember discussions in the early days of the pandemic with several major building owners and operators who ardently believed that the pandemic would run its course by the end of 2020. Back then we discussed the pandemic ultimately being eradicated by mass vaccination, and that it would not have lasting impacts on the built environment. Essentially the strategy was to survive the choppy waters of 2020 in anticipation of a “return to normal” by 2021.

A year and a half later, three realities have become clear. First, COVID-19 is still with us in 2021 – in a recent Nature poll, 89 percent of scientists felt that SARS-CoV-2 is either very likely or likely to become an endemic virus.[1] Second, while evidence suggests that vaccination provides strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, it is not a silver-bullet solution given unevenness in adoption, access, and efficacy. Third, there are already strong indications that the pandemic is driving the built environment to a new normal, especially as many offices, schools, and campuses confront prolonged vacancies, partial occupancies, and never-ending fits and starts of reopenings and shutdowns.

One key element of this new normal will be the increasing prominence of health, safety, and wellness as value driver in real estate, both with respect to buildings themselves and the people occupying them. Prior to the pandemic, the “Healthy Building” movement had been gaining steady momentum, reflected in the rise of the WELL Building certification and the popularity of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity by Joe Allen and John Macomber at Harvard. “Healthy Buildings” thinking is premised on the organizing framework that people spend a majority of their lives indoors, indoor environmental quality has a significant impact on health outcomes, and improved health outcomes ultimately flow to a company’s bottom line via productivity boosts.[2]

The pandemic has powerfully validated the Healthy Building paradigm and turbocharged demand for higher indoor environmental quality standards due to the significance and urgency of the health and safety, financial, and liability stakes for both owners/employers and tenants/employees. In the context of a highly transmissible airborne disease like SARS-CoV-2, the critical elements of indoor environmental quality are ventilation, filtration, and indoor air quality. Along with vaccination and masking, public health and EHS experts emphasize ventilation and filtration as central pillars to effective infection control. Beyond COVID-19, the benefits of improved ventilation and filtration extend to preventing common respiratory infections like influenza as well as improving cognition, performance, and productivity within indoor spaces.

However, the pandemic has exposed a pervasive trust deficit regarding workplace safety. A widely cited poll of 3,400 respondents across seven countries conducted by Edelman in late 2020 yielded striking results. Only half of employees believed that office spaces are safe.[3] Whether these concerns are justified or not is difficult to discern because building safety is largely a black box for SARS-CoV-2 and airborne diseases. The public has little visibility on health conditions of indoor spaces. Moreover, building owners and operators often have little understanding of health risk in their portfolios due to limitations in measuring risk and verifying controls in real-world buildings.

Our company has a unique lens on this challenge. We’ve developed the first commercial diagnostic solution for testing and verifying real-world ventilation and filtration performance for aerosol contaminants like SARS-CoV-2, leveraging DNA-tagged aerosol tracers that safely simulate airborne pathogen mobility and exposure. During the pandemic, we’ve been supporting large multinationals, commercial real estate owners, and public entities to assess and mitigate health and safety risk in their facilities and then help communicate our independent science-based data to employees and tenants.

What have our field assessments taught us about risk levels in everyday spaces? First, risk varies dramatically within buildings, across buildings, and across time. Second, assumed understanding of risk levels inevitably varies from the ground truth. Third, enclosed spaces with multiple occupants and prolonged occupancy often indicate the highest levels of risk and therefore demand the greatest attention. Fourth, the simplest, cheapest, and most accessible solutions often prove to be the most effective. Fifth, money is frequently wasted on mitigation strategies and solutions demonstrating little to no measurable benefit.

In the end, perhaps the most significant tail of the pandemic will be embedding health, safety, and wellness firmly into the core value equation of buildings. Key bellwethers that we’re already seeing are health, safety, and wellness increasingly factoring into future leasing and safety risk becoming more heavily incorporated into building codes, rating standards, and compliance requirements. In the new normal, those who are proactive about prioritizing, improving, and differentiating on IAQ, ventilation, and filtration are likely to be rewarded by the market; those who are complacent risk being caught flat-footed.

This article originally appeared on CRE Insight Journal. Read it here.

References:

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00396-2
  2. Joe Allen and John Macomber, Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity. HUP. 2020.
  3. https://www.edelman.com/research/workplace-trust-coronavirus

Three Organizations Partner to Help K–12 Schools Assess Indoor Air Quality

By Matt Jones

Date: September 3, 2021

Johnson Controls announced this week that it is contributing its OpenBlue Healthy Buildings portfolio to a pre-existing partnership between two science and safety organizations. UL and SafeTraces joined forces in March 2021 to begin evaluating the effectiveness of indoor air quality and HVAC systems, as well as infection control strategies, in K–12 schools. The three companies will use science-based indoor air quality and infection risk assessments to evaluate mechanical systems’ effectiveness in schools.

The program will allow school administrators to use science-based performance data to confirm that schools meet indoor air quality standards and establish safe environments for teachers and students. Administrators will also be able to collaborate with Johnson Controls to target gaps in their systems; schools can then use data from UL and SafeTraces as a guide to create a plan for a long-term clean air strategy. These third-party, data-driven air quality assessments will allow schools to improve student and faculty health as well as build public trust and confidence.

“Education authorities, like many of us, are aware of and more responsive to the critical need to ensure healthy school buildings. But there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy because school districts and the buildings they run are not homogenous,” said Nate Manning, Johnson Controls’ President of Building Solutions North America. “Science-based data ꟷ from air quality and risk assessments to building connected technology solutions ꟷ will drive each component of this program, which will bring peace of mind to students, teachers, and families as schools reopen.”

Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue Schools solution provides a full suite of connected solutions for sustainability, safety and security across a full building’s entire lifecycle. UL’s Healthy Buildings program offers indoor environmental quality, energy and sustainability services, particularly comprehensive data reviews, HVAC system inspections, air quality testing and ventilation assessments, exhaust system verification and more. SafeTraces offers an aerosol-based solution to evaluate HVAC system performance using DNA-tagged bioaerosol tracers that simulate airborne pathogen mobility and exposure.

“K-12 administrators and their facility managers are held to the highest standards of safety and rapidly evolving health regulation like never before. Through UL’s Healthy Building program, we have learned how the facility leaders who manage what they measure have far greater success managing risk than those who only address issues as they arise,” said Sean McCrady, director in UL’s Assets and Sustainability Performance, Real Estate and Properties group. “Not only will we equip K-12 administrators with independent evidence of the efficacy of their systems, but we can also now give them guidance to enhance their building operations into the future.”

This post originally appeared on spaces4learning.com. Read it here.

Healthy air, healthy schools: Johnson Controls, UL and SafeTraces partner to help K-12 schools assess indoor air quality with leading science and technology

– K-12 administrators can use science-based performance data backed by groundbreaking technology to verify schools meet indoor air quality standards, mitigate infection risk, and enable safe environments for students, teachers, and staff.

MILWAUKEESept. 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, announced it will pair its industry-leading OpenBlue Healthy Buildings portfolio with the new collaboration between UL and SafeTraces. In March 2021, UL, the global safety science leader, and SafeTraces, a market leader in DNA-based safety technology, announced a new program to evaluate the effectiveness of their indoor air quality, ventilation and filtration systems, and infection control strategies for airborne diseases including coronaviruses, in K-12 schools.

Through the program, Johnson Controls, UL and SafeTraces will leverage science-based indoor air quality and infection risk assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of mechanical systems in K-12 schools. Johnson Controls is the first in its industry to leverage data provided by UL and SafeTraces to collaborate with K-12 administrators to address any gaps and create a blueprint for a comprehensive, long-term clean air strategy.

Johnson Controls offers K-12 administrators tailored services for the full building lifecycle through OpenBlue Schools, a complete suite of connected solutions that deliver impactful sustainability, new student experiences, and respectful safety and security that combines more than 135 years of building experience with cutting-edge technology.

“Education authorities, like many of us, are aware of and more responsive to the critical need to ensure healthy school buildings. But there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy because school districts and the buildings they run are not homogenous,” said Nate Manning, Johnson Controls’ President of Building Solutions North America. “Science-based data ꟷ from air quality and risk assessments to building connected technology solutions ꟷ will drive each component of this program, which will bring peace of mind to students, teachers, and families as schools reopen.”

Transformative Collaboration: Connecting the Dots

Working together, these three leaders in healthy buildings offer K-12 schools a holistic program to create healthy classroom and campus environments.

“K-12 administrators and their facility managers are held to the highest standards of safety and rapidly evolving health regulation like never before. Through UL’s Healthy Building program, we have learned how the facility leaders who manage what they measure have far greater success managing risk than those who only address issues as they arise,” said Sean McCrady, director in UL’s Assets and Sustainability Performance, Real Estate and Properties group. “Not only will we equip K-12 administrators with independent evidence of the efficacy of their systems, but we can also now give them guidance to enhance their building operations into the future.”

UL’s Healthy Building program provides indoor environmental quality, energy and sustainability services for the built environment. In this instance, UL’s assessment consists of a comprehensive data review, HVAC system inspection, air quality testing, ventilation assessment, exhaust system verification, and risk assessment via SafeTraces veriDART® technology.

A core component of UL’s Healthy Building programveriDART® by SafeTraces is the first aerosol-based solution for verifying HVAC system performance for health and safety in real world environments. With support from the National Institutes of Health and other leading research partners, veriDART leverages patented DNA-tagged bioaerosol tracers that safely simulate airborne pathogen mobility and exposure in order to identify potential infection hotspots, test ventilation and filtration efficacy, and inform safety and financial planning with independent science-based performance data.

“The question on every parent’s, teacher’s, and staff member’s mind today is – is my school safe to return to and how will we ensure it’s safe in the future?” said Erik Malmstrom, SafeTraces CEO. “veriDART is the best equipped solution in the marketplace to answer these questions for SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and other airborne diseases. We’re thrilled to partner with Johnson Controls and UL to deliver the gold standard program for school health and safety during the pandemic and beyond.”

Serving schools for well over a century, Johnson Controls is the industry leader in smart buildings and connected technologies and oversees the full lifecycle of building operations for school administrators. For example, Johnson Controls OpenBlue Schools integrates building IT, communications, administration and classroom learning systems with core building systems to create smart, connected schools. Examples of OpenBlue Schools solutions include predictive maintenance, contract tracing, social distance monitoring, mask detection and skin temperature screening.

Delivering Data-Powered Confidence

“Johnson Controls is the global leader in building data, UL is the global safety science leader, and SafeTraces is an emerging leader in building performance verification. Together, we can deliver science-based insights and actionable data analytics with Johnson Controls complete suite of connected solutions to help administrators manage operations more systematically, efficiently, and sustainably. Through our combined capabilities, we can empower building owners to transform their spaces and provide healthy environments confidently. Keeping our schools safe is imperative, but only the beginning. The future possibilities are boundless.” said Manning.

For more contact information visit: https://www.johnsoncontrols.com/openblue/openblue-clean-air
To learn more about OpenBlue, visit: https://www.johnsoncontrols.com/industries/k-12-education.

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

Is There COVID in the Air at Your Office or Workplace?

SafeTraces, headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, has now been hired by, and is measuring the “air change” in office buildings, universities, and public spaces.

By Joel Grover and Josh Davis

Date: August 5, 2021

When one of California’s biggest owners of office space–The Irvine Company–wanted to make sure the air in its buildings was free of viruses, it hired a Bay Area company that showed up with spray bottles and skilled technicians.

The company, called SafeTraces, was testing the air in the offices to measure something called “air change”—the number of times per hour that the air in a room is totally changed through ventilation and filtration.

As millions of people are returning to their offices and workplaces for the first time since the pandemic began, public health doctors are realizing that sufficient “air change” is critical to preventing further spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

It’s now well documented the droplets from a cough or sneeze can spread viruses “which can stay in the air for 30 minutes to hours… and travel well beyond six feet” in a room, said Professor Joseph Allen, head of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“One of the biggest surprises of the entire pandemic is that there’s been a failure to recognize the reality of airborne transmission,” Professor Allen told the I-Team.

SafeTraces, headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, has now been hired by, and is measuring the “air change” in office buildings, universities, and public spaces such as Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport.

“Most employees won’t really know if the air quality is good in their buildings,” said SafeTraces CEO Erik Malmstrom.

The I-Team traveled to SafeTraces headquarters to see how the company tests the air in an office or workplace, using a spray that looks like air freshener. It’s really a DNA-laced aerosol, called veriDART.

“It’s intended to simulate a cough or sneeze,” SafeTraces’ Malmstrom told the I-Team.

The DNA solution is sprayed in the air numerous times, then a machine captures air samples, which are then analyzed in a lab to see how many virus-like particles remained in the air. The results reveal the “air change” in a room.

If the air in a room isn’t changed often enough, people could inhale airborne viruses and get sick.

“With SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID], the majority of outbreaks involving 3 or more people have been linked… to airborne transmission,” wrote Harvard’s Professor Allen.

The I-Team discovered that no government agency has yet set clear standards for air changes in a room, though Cal/OSHA told NBC4 “Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards require employers to take steps to improve indoor airflow and filtration whenever possible. Cal/OSHA enforces these requirements by investigating complaints from workers, referrals from non-workers and notifications of work-related serious injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”

But Harvard’s School of Public Health has determined there should be at least four complete changes of the air in a room every hour, “ideally” six changes.

“That means you’re changing out air six times per hour or every ten minutes, through the combination of ventilation and filtration,” said SafeTraces’ CEO Malmstrom.

In high risk settings like hospital operating rooms, the air is changed 12 times an hour, according to a U.S. Department of Defense study. On commercial airplanes, the air is changed through advanced HEPA filtration systems up to 36 times an hour. But in most indoor settings, the air change falls below the Harvard standard for healthy air.

“For example, in your home, typically you get half an air change per hour. In a school, we get less than 3 air changes per hour,” said Harvard’s Professor Allen.

When SafeTraces tested the air in its own conference room, similar to those in thousands of office buildings, the air was being changed only three times an hour, not the recommended six.

“We don’t think that’s enough,” said the company’s CEO.

But improving the air change in an office or home isn’t necessarily expensive or complicated.

“It’s really quite simple,” said Harvard’s Professor Allen. “You can sometimes accomplish it by opening up the windows a bit, or purchasing a portable air cleaners with a HEPA filter.”

When SafeTraces put a movable HEPA filter in its conference room, the air went from being changed three times an hour to ten times an hour.

You can buy a HEPA filter starting at less than $100 online or at hardware stores.

Experts like Professor Allen tell the I-Team, in order to make sure the unit is powerful enough for your space, you should look at the product description to find something called the Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR.

“My rule of thumb is that you want a CADR of 350 for every 500 square feet. That will give you five air changes per hour, or more,” said Allen.

And experts suggest that as employees return to their offices for the first time since the pandemic began, they ask their bosses a few questions about “air change” and ventilation.

“They should ask, ‘What have you done to make the space safer? Where is the ventilation and filtration system today?’ People should be transparent at this point. It’s people’s health and safety and lives that are at stake,” SafeTraces CEO Malmstrom told NBC4.

This post originally appeared on NBC Los Angeles. Read it here.

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.

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.

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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