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Indoor air should be as safe as a glass of water


Imagine you are traveling in a country that does not have good water and sanitation infrastructure. You sit down at a restaurant and are served a glass of water. Do you drink it?

We face the same quandary now with indoor air quality. During a pandemic, or even after a pandemic, if we are at an indoor restaurant, do we sit down, take off our masks and eat given the inherent risks to our health with poor indoor air quality and safety from airborne viruses?

One of the things COVID-19 has taught us and that we can use to improve health and safety going forward is that indoor air quality matters. I would propose that we start thinking about indoor air quality the same way we think about water quality. We should be able to both drink the water and breathe the air and feel safe. With respect to air quality, it is not hard to do.

From an infectious disease standpoint, ventilation and filtration are simple and measurable variables that affect air quality. We can measure ventilation easily with the use of a carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor. For less than $200, you can use a CO2 monitor to ensure your customers are breathing in as much fresh air as your building can supply. CO2 monitors can be linked to a visible display so everyone knows when the environment is sufficiently ventilated, and when it is not.

Filtering this air adds another layer of protection. By using high-quality filters – in individual rooms and also in the HVAC system used to cool or heat the larger spaces – we can help make indoor spaces safer where patrons are eating and drinking and employees are working by filtering out harmful viruses. With proper ventilation and filtration, masking may not be necessary when case counts of airborne diseases are low because the work of ensuring safe air is being done for us by the businesses we choose to support or the places where we go to work.

Imagine having to filter your own water before you drink it. That is what we are being asked to do now with respect to air quality.

In summary, we can improve health and safety by focusing on indoor air quality. Here are a few things policymakers, employers and business owners should strongly consider moving forward. These recommendations make sense for good health and good business.

• Ventilation indoors should be maximized and then measured and monitored with CO2 monitors. These should be visible and read so that responsible persons can make adjustments as necessary to ensure good ventilation.

• High-quality filtration appropriate for the room size and density of persons in the room should be utilized to filter out unwanted pathogens floating in the air.

• Tax incentives for investing in indoor health quality should be provided.

• Other modalities and technologies used to purify air should be made more affordable.

• Masking policies should reflect indoor air quality and local case counts. It makes no sense to wear a mask standing up in a restaurant and not have to wear one while sitting down. High-risk environments like indoor dining establishments should ensure their patrons have good air quality in the same way they ensure the quality of the food and drink they serve.

• Sick leave policies and vaccination mandates should be used in businesses located in indoor environments to keep sick people out of shared environments as much as possible.

• Advocacy/lobbying association groups should provide education regarding indoor air quality and link their represented businesses to the appropriate resources.

• Businesses that ensure good indoor air quality should market themselves as good stewards of the health and safety of their patrons and employees.

• In much the same way we have publicly available reports on food safety and water quality, regulators should work to ensure indoor air quality is measured appropriately. Safety and health are integral components of a thriving economy. If a server can tell me all about where the meat or vegetables are from while pouring that first glass of water, which I will have no problems drinking, why can’t I be assured the air is safe to breathe, too?


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