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Jesse Coiro is the Director of Health and Healthcare at Erlab. He’s been with Erlab for over a decade and previously worked as an environmental hygenist, providing environmental monitoring services to better understand the risks of bioburden on surfaces and in the air.

Jesse sat down to discuss some of his thoughts on the recent White House discussion on Covid and clean indoor air. You can watch the video or read the transcript provided below.

Why is the White House talking about indoor air quality now?

It’s been a hidden danger for a very long time, and you don’t want to address it, because once you start addressing indoor air quality, it becomes a very costly situation that many facilities have to deal with.

Outdoor air is easy to address because it’s outdoors and I don’t think it scares as many people. They feel if they get out of that environment, they’re safe from exposure.

Knowing that people spend 90% of their time indoors, if we start putting measures in place to improve indoor air quality or start talking about the risks associated with indoor air quality, it’s going to be a lot of money that needs to be spent in order to address it appropriately.

The EPA has ranked indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental dangers for many years. It’s just really been swept under the rug. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Covid has opened that up for all, and now, IAQ or indoor air quality is known throughout all households in America and beyond, so it definitely has to be addressed, but I can understand why it wasn’t. it’s a risky situation.

It’s a very costly endeavor for the majority of facilities and somebody’s going to have to pay for that. So, now, the question is, what can be done? Now that we’ve learned a lot, how do we improve? What are the proper steps we need to put into place to address the unseen dangers that we’re exposed to day after day?

Who is most at risk from poor indoor air quality?

Academic facilities, of course, because it’s our children. Indoor air quality impacts the cognitive abilities to learn, but can also reduce absenteeism if you address indoor air quality appropriately and you have good air to breathe.

Equally as important is long-term care facilities where you have elderly people, people at higher risk, being exposed to bioaerosols of many different kinds. I hope that this message is heard from the board of directors at these facilities so that our loved ones can be treated appropriately and fairly.

Who needs to address indoor air quality?

I think it’s facilities directors, building managers superintendents, and principals for sure. They have to be made aware because ultimately, they are the end decision-maker. The Board of Trustees and parent-teachers associations as well. I think if you have the voice of the parents demanding to address this issue, it’s going to be addressed.

What do you think the OSTP should have covered in their discussion?

Well, they covered a lot. I think they did the best they could do because they can’t promote certain products.

I like the fact that they touched on electronic air cleaners and not to use them because they are very dangerous and they do pose a harmful risk, especially the byproducts that could unintentionally be dispersed, specifically, ozone and potentially emissions such as chloroform or formaldehyde. I think they did a good job talking about that.

I wish they would have spent a little bit more time because unfortunately, these electronic air cleaners have been the products that most facilities have jumped on because they’re the cheap solution.

I wish they would have talked about airflow dynamics, a little bit more as well, the importance of having true laminar flow air coming to your facility and not creating a very turbulent environment understanding that you can’t just throw more air at a problem assuming that it’s going to reduce the risk. Unfortunately, turbulent environments increase the risks of exposure and actual spikes and concentration.

What advice would you give to anyone concerned with their indoor air quality?

Talk with a consultant. Talk with a professional company that has been in air quality improvements for many years.

First and foremost, you want to know what type of space you’re living in. The best way to do that and the most affordable way to do that is to do what’s known as particle counts. Any type of air quality consultant will have access to a particle counter. It will be fairly cheap testing, but it’s good to know the level of pollution in your facility. That’s a good place to start. And then you can go down the chain from there. It can get as extensive as running PCR tests, going into the ductwork, and doing swab samples.

There’s a lot that can be done but first start with understanding what is in the air you breathe.

Is it polluted? Are you in a safe zone? Is it something that you need to take charge of today?

That’s the start, but it’s definitely a process.

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