As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, rates in schools are affecting children’s education as well as the health of both pupils and staff. It’s vital to reduce cases in schools, particularly as important summer exams are starting. So, what can be done to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms and keep occupants healthy? Effective ventilation with added air purification is a great combination to mitigate COVID-19 transmission as well as providing good indoor air quality (IAQ). Natasha King, Product Manager at Vent-Axia explains more.
It’s now more than two years since the start of the first lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, schools have closed their doors to most pupils for extended periods of time and when classrooms have been open it’s an ongoing battle to reduce virus transmission. The omicron variant has been creating challenges across the country, including in the classroom. So, what can be done to help reduce transmission and keep children in school?
A new Italian study, overseen by the Hume foundation think-tank, has shown that mechanical ventilation can cut COVID-19 cases in schools by over 80%. Looking at ventilation in over ten thousand schools in Italy, those with mechanical ventilation found COVID-19 infections cases were steeply lowered, and rates were lower still in those classrooms with higher air changes per hour: infections in classrooms with 2.4 air changes per hour were reduced by 40%, rising to 66.8% reduction with 4 air changes per hour and 82.5% with 6 air changes per hour.
Furthermore, the Royal Academy of Engineering report, ‘Infection Resilient Environments: Buildings that keep us healthy and safe’, looks at how we design, manage, and operate buildings and how we can make infrastructure more resilient to infection both now and going forward. Commissioned by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, the initial report highlights the importance of achieving good IAQ as well as reducing transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, meaning many of the suggested changes have relevance well beyond COVID-19, including air cleaning. Therefore, the latest air purifiers should prove a valuable addition to any classroom.
But many classrooms are still using open windows and CO2 monitors to attempt to reduce transmission and monitor IAQ, with limited success. A Coventry University study found that 40% of primary school classrooms in the research failed to provide an adequate ventilation rate to combat the spread of COVID-19. The study showed that the primary schools were often inadequately ventilated because teachers didn’t want to open windows or doors regularly enough which was linked to the different temperature thresholds for adults and children – with adults typically feeling colder than children.
But by combining effective mechanical ventilation with air purification, COVID-19 transmission rates could be starkly reduced whilst maintaining an acceptable temperature for all occupants. A University of Leeds led study is investigating the effectiveness of air cleaners in schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is trialling two different approaches to disinfecting the air in 30 primary schools in Bradford. The study is investigating the effectiveness of air purifiers with a HEPA filter; and exposing the air to an ultraviolet germicidal light through an enclosed unit. The scientists involved in the study are confident that these technologies will reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Having effective ventilation and air purification installed in classrooms has other benefits too. Not only is IAQ improved, which is paramount to the health and well-being of pupils and teachers, CO2 are more effectively reduced. If a classroom lacks adequate ventilation high levels of CO2 can build-up which directly affects the performance and attention span of those in the room, causing tiredness, drowsiness, and a lack of concentration. Longer term exposure to polluted air is also linked too many serious health conditions such as cancer, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. So, it’s clear that ventilation and air purification offer many benefits beyond the COVID-19 pandemic making it a long-term investment to the health and wellbeing of school children and staff.
Recognising the important part air purification plays in improving IAQ, Vent-Axia recently launched the Vent-Axia PureAir Room which cleanses the air, removes harmful particles, neutralises bad smells and removes pollen and other allergens. Designed with an advanced 6-stage filtration system, the PureAir Room air purifier uses its High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to remove 99.9% of particles in the air including mould, dust, viruses, PM2.5, VOC and pet allergens. Working automatically, the PureAir Room senses the air quality and delivers increased filtration when needed to protect health. Lightweight and portable, it can easily be moved as required.
Vent-Axia also has a range of solutions for schools to improve their ventilation. The Slimpak EC box fan ducted system continuously supplies fresh air or extracts stale air or both. These fans can be connected to a CO2 sensor for optimal air quality control. Meanwhile, the ACM100-200 and ACM250-315 mixed flow in-line fans provide ceiling mounted cooling in the summer or can recirculate the warm air from the ceiling in the winter to minimise the amount of time space heaters need to be active. Vent-Axia’s Lo-Carbon T-Series fans can provide background or purge ventilation in a classroom and are easily fitted through windows and walls.
Vent-Axia is here to help schools with free advice to help them protect their students from COVID-19 in most cost-effective way. Visit the webpage at https://www.vent-axia.com/ventilationinschools to find out more.
With COVID-19 still causing disruption to schools and our everyday lives, creating safer classrooms is essential to children’s health and education. Using a combination of mechanical ventilation and air purification is an effective solution to reduce transmission as well as providing wider health benefits including reducing allergens, pollutants and other viruses in the air. It’s clear that this solution can be the answer schools need to stay open and safe.
For more information on the Vent-Axia PureAir Room and how it can help protect health and improve IAQ in schools, offices, hotels and other commercial buildings, visit https://www.vent-axia.com/airpurifiers or telephone: +44 (0)344 856 0590.
Boasting over 85 years’ experience, Vent-Axia is the ventilation sector’s clear leader, chief innovator and forerunner in energy-saving, lo-carbon products. Committed to helping improve indoor air quality and comfort in both homes and buildings, Vent-Axia provides the sector’s most comprehensive choice from any single manufacturer. Vent-Axia’s range covers not just air movement and ventilation technologies but heat recovery, electric heating, hand dryers, cooling and clean-air systems for residential, commercial, public sector and industrial applications.