Indoor Air Quality and its Relationship to COVID
PSESD’s Workers’ Compensation Trust (WCT) offers preventive health and safety related services to member school districts. Our Client Services Team includes an Industrial Hygiene Consultant who works with member districts on their schools Indoor Air Quality, environmental and chemical exposures, and management of hazardous chemicals. The work is in collaboration with school science laboratories, involves technical and art education, focuses on custodial cleaners and disinfectants, and highlights safety in maintenance shops, in transportation systems, and elsewhere. Currently, the consultants are dealing with COVID, building safety, and returning students to school.
So, what is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and how does IAQ relate to the current COVID situation?
- IAQ is about the air we breathe indoors. Elements of IAQ include ventilation, proper cleaning and disinfection, and the reduction of exposure to air pollutants, both chemical and biological. Examples of biological pollutants are mold, bacteria, and viruses, including the COVID family.
- It is proven that IAQ influences the peak performance of staff and students, impacting even testing scores when allergies or asthma cause absenteeism, tiredness, and headaches derived from poor indoor air.
- The basics of good IAQ are still the same as before COVID: optimized ventilation, proper cleaning with low hazard, unscented cleaners, and the use of EPA approved disinfectants.
- More attention to proper cleaning and understanding that only solid surfaces can be properly disinfected and that spray disinfectants only transfer pollutants into the air.
- Providing proper hand washing facilities, preferably with non-touch equipment and paper towels, and disconnecting blowing hand dryers that spread germs into the air.
- What works are still the basics: social distancing, handwashing, elevated ventilation, proper and regular cleaning and disinfection.
The WCT collaborates with and follows the guidance of agencies (EPA, CDC, state and county health departments, OSPI, L&I), professional organizations, and colleagues from other Washington ESDs. We are on the same page. There should be no contradiction in the consults we provide and we support each other’s message.
The silver lining of the COVID situation is that IAQ measures have gained more attention and more support because of the value added to students and school employees. This focus has brought a new level of collaboration between IAQ Coordinators, Administration, Maintenance & Operations, Human
Resources, Nurses, and Communications professionals all working together to make schools healthier and safer for all who work and learn in our buildings.
Employer Health and Safety Requirements for School Scenarios: https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/communications/Employer-Health-and-Safety-Requirements-for-School-Scenarios.pdf
Ventilation and Air Quality for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/VentilationGuidance.pdf