Although we are seeing more places being reopened, the truth is that not all of them have been properly prepared to receive the public, and even less after almost 2 years of the pandemic. So says Lidia Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH).
"We need a paradigm shift in how buildings are designed, equipped and operated," explains Morawska. And it certainly is. Since the start of the pandemic, this scientist has not been separated for a single minute from her CO2 monitor, a small, portable device that she carries in her bag everywhere she goes”.
Even though measuring CO2 levels is not directly proportional to knowing the level of COVID-19 exposure at a specific location, it cannot be denied that it is a fairly reliable indicator of areas with poor ventilation systems. Also, without robust ventilation, there will be a higher concentration of the virus in the air.
It is time to take measures that really work
At this point in the pandemic, Lidia Morawska invites us to question whether we are really taking adequate measures to ventilate indoor spaces because it seems that we are not doing it so well.
It cannot be denied that the actions taken by the countries have been very varied, some more positive than others. However, it is necessary to carry out a global restructuring of the ventilation systems to prevent the spread of contagion, otherwise, we will continue to be just as exposed if another pandemic arrives.
In this sense, what this air quality professional proposes is to design performance ventilation standards that are oriented to the control of health and its infections in the purpose statement. With standardized standards that regulate the internal dynamics of buildings, it is sufficient to combat any virus that spreads through the air.
How does improving indoor air quality affect the economy?
It is a fact that there are sound economic reasons related to air quality system reforms. Before going through this pandemic, all respiratory-related illnesses cost the world's governments billions of dollars a year in health care costs, absenteeism, and lost productivity.
This has entrenched a false belief that countries cannot afford new ventilation systems, which is wrong considering, for example, the number of annual common flu infections, which could be avoided if effective action were taken.
“Better ventilation wouldn’t prevent all infections, but even if it prevented one-third that would save a vast amount of money. Analysis suggests that improving ventilation adds around 1% to the building cost, versus the infection costs for the entire lifetime of the building. That is huge”.
Lidia's work to date has contributed to making many indoor spaces healthier for millions of people around the world, which is an open invitation to governments to develop strategies to improve spaces, prevent infections, and prepare for the future.