New ventilation targets are a breath of fresh air
After years of advocating from the indoor air quality industry and health professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a new health-based ventilation target that can dramatically improve indoor air quality in the United States. Here’s everything you need to know about the new targets and how to improve indoor air quality.
What's in the new CDC ventilation guidelines
May 11th, 2023 - For the first time, the CDC has set a specific target for the ventilation of buildings designed to address respiratory infectious diseases. The recommended number is at least five air changes per hour (ACH). This target represents a substantial increase compared to the typical ventilation rates in homes and other indoor spaces. The CDC also advises the use of higher-grade MERV-13 filters to capture particles from both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as regular tune-ups for buildings to enhance energy efficiency. These changes aim to address the inadequacy of previous ventilation approaches, particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and promote healthier indoor environments to mitigate the spread of respiratory pathogens and improve public health.
These new guidelines are wholeheartedly welcomed by health professionals and
IAQ industry experts alike. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic no longer a global health emergency according to the World Health Organization, (WHO) these new changes would likely not be possible without the spotlight Covid-19 brought on the health implications of indoor air quality. The White House Summit on Indoor Air Quality, the Coronavirus task force, the appointment of new CDC director Rochelle Walensky in 2021, and evidence-based recommendations from experts such as Dr. Joseph Allen director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Allen, who is also the author of the influential book, Healthy Buildings believes these welcomed changes could be the first in a wave to come and had this to say in his recent op-ed in the Washington Post - "We might be on the verge of an indoor air quality revolution, and it could be among the most important public health victories of the 21st century".
More ways to improve your air quality as recommended by the CDC
Within the CDC’s updated guidelines they outline basic and enhanced strategies to improve indoor air quality. Basic Strategies include ensuring your building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems operate as designed and carrying out regular checks of filters.
The CDC also outlines 7 more enhanced steps that can be employed by buildings to improve their energy efficiency and the health of their occupants. These recommendations are as follows and can also be found at cdc.gov.
1. Meet the CDC’s guidelines of 5 or more air exchanges per hour (ACH).
This number should ensure a healthy amount of clean air gets into your building.
2. Use filters on your vents.
Use MERV-13 or higher (HEPA filter), when possible. These are high-quality filters, and thick pleats that trap and block as much as 98 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
3. Implement demand-based ventilation controls.
Set your ventilation system to circulate more air when people are in the building. Also, consider ventilation based on occupancy or autonomous demand-based ventilation via air quality monitoring.
4. Use natural ventilation.
Bring more clean outdoor air into spaces by opening windows and doors and using exhaust fans. Circulating air for even 15 minutes can dramatically reduce the risk of virus transmission.
5. Use air purifiers where needed.
These devices filter the air with high-efficiency filters that remove germs from the air and can be useful in tackling issues with particulate matter or air pollution.
6. Use UV light to kill germs.
UV air treatment systems can also kill germs in the air. They can also provide a high level of effective air changes per hour while using little energy.
7. Monitor indoor air quality.
A portable CO2 monitor can help you determine how stale or fresh the air is in rooms and verify whether the amount of air exchange in a room is sufficient.
How to ensure my building meets the CDC ventilation guidelines
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