Winning on Health and Climate Means Embracing Cutting Edge Indoor Air Tech

The COVID-19 epidemic has not only challenged our healthcare system and our economy. It has also challenged us to be smarter about how we reopen the world. We have to be thoughtful and innovative. This means a more thorough cleaning of indoor air spaces without consuming drastically more energy. Otherwise, we risk solving a healthcare disaster while creating an environmental disaster at the same time.

To reduce the spread of pathogens such as COVID-19, we will have to do better to make indoor air healthier. At the same time, if we want to gain from climate change, we will have to significantly reduce the energy burden of heating and cooling homes and businesses. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the biggest behavioral change we need to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce our energy consumption for space heating, a step that could save 457 million tons of CO2. we can save another 95 million metric tons by tackling the refrigeration side of air conditioning.

One of the leading trade associations for the heating and ventilation industry leads us in the opposite direction on indoor air sanitation in the post-COVID world. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, better known as ASHRAE, was founded in 1959 and, despite the word “American”, has been the dominant global authority on heating and cooling ever since. They have issued guidelines that homes and businesses should use more high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) to trap smaller pathogens and that property managers to keep HVAC systems that run around the clock because filters only work when air is flowing. This poses obvious problems for beating climate change.

In addition to driving up energy consumption for governments, businesses and the economy in general, experts have warned that an increase in static pressure from filtration could lead to higher energy consumption. That means following ASHRAE’s current advice is a recipe for increasing carbon emissions, while at the same time running counter to long-standing guidelines for green buildings.

Fortunately, there are better solutions available that offer an advanced ability to purify indoor air without increasing energy consumption. Advanced Photocatalytic Processes kill the pathogens that spread the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 disease. The methodology uses submicroscopic particles in a supercharged state to locate and neutralize pathogens, avoiding massive energy consumption through the process of drawing air through a filter or using harmful ultraviolet light.

kids and a parent play
South Korean children and a parent play in a room with an air purifier (left) at a children’s cafe on March 9, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea.
Jean Chung/Getty Images

A company called ActivePure developed and implemented patented technology that kills 99.99 percent of airborne pathogens in a standard disinfection hierarchy. The ActivePure technology has been approved by the FDA as a Class II medical device. Studies have shown that devices that advanced photocatalytic processes to reduce dangerous airborne pathogens that cause COVID-19, by at least 99.9 percent, within 30 minutes, also with attendees.

important, advanced photocatalytic processes are not just a hopeful technology. It works straight away, protect astronauts in the NASA space program involved in new innovations in space exploration. Critical healthcare institutions also count on advanced photocatalytic processes. Alternity Healthcare uses the technology as part of their program to protect patients from COVID-19. Furthermore, Cleveland Clinic is now to conduct a two-year double-blind clinical study in more than 67,000 patients to determine how technologies such as ActivePure’s devices can reduce infections in surgical operating room procedures.

Advanced Photocatalytic technology also helps protect young children, with early childhood education centers in at least seven states using the technology. ABC Kiddie Kampus in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and Bright and early childcare in West Hartford, Connecticut, both use advanced photocatalytic devices to give parents peace of mind. This is an important measure, as Vice Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, former United States Deputy Surgeon General, explained that schools should look for “technologies with filters that work at the viral level or deploy microscopic particles to search for and destroy pathogens in the air and on surfaces rather than just filtering them out.” He also advised that administrators should push for approaches with FDA approval.

For cities and other local governments, advanced photocatalytic processes offers clear advantages over HEPA filters or other technology. That’s why the city is town Sauce, Massachusetts, and the Police of Toledo, Oregon, both use the technology to purify indoor air without increasing their energy consumption by relying solely on HVAC approaches.

The reality is that using ASHRAE’s proposed solutions is not a sustainable path in terms of climate or environmental health outcomes. As The Wall Street Journal reported, pushing and pulling construction air the old-fashioned way leads to “significantly higher energy bills and an increase in emissions that can contribute to climate change.”

We can’t reverse 50 years of progress in sustainable building practices by simply telling property owners to run their HVAC systems more. We need to think more, trust advanced photocatalytic technologies can give us the best of both worlds. If we pursue a smart approach, we can come out of COVID-19 healthier, reduce emissions and ultimately be more sustainable.

dr. Michael K. Dorsey is co-founder and director of the Center for Environmental Health and former board member of the Sierra Club.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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