How can I inquire about indoor air quality at my workplace and my child’s school?

Infection and Spread

A: Two priorities: ventilation and filtration. See six key diligence questions below.

First, two definitions for those who might want a “refresher” (ha ha…pun intended ;))

➡️ VENTILATION – the provision of *fresh air* to indoor spaces; and

➡️ FILTRATION – the removal of disease-causing particles from indoor air

Now onto the six key questions…..

Authored by science journalist Tara Parker-Pope, this checklist summarizes her conversations with the world’s leading experts on airborne disease transmission (reference below!)

🧐 QUESTION 1: What improvements have you made to the ventilation system?

Best practices: Ventilation filters with MERV (minimum efficiency reporting values) ratings of 13 or better; disabling “demand-controlled” ventilation, which reduces rate of outdoor air when occupancy is low; using “outdoor dampers” – movable plates that stops or regulates airflow

🧐 QUESTION 2: Can the windows be opened?

Best practice: An ability to open windows on opposite sides of the room, providing “cross ventilation.”

🧐 QUESTION 3: What is the air change rate?

Best practice: Minimum of 4-6 hourly air changes

🧐 QUESTION 4: Are you using portable air cleaners?

Best practice: (1) Use them! (2) Specs: clean air delivery rate (CADR) of 300 cubic feet per minute or better

🧐 QUESTION 5: How are you monitoring air quality?

Best practice: Use a carbon dioxide sensor; levels above 800 can be worrisome

🧐 QUESTION 6: Does the building rely on unproven technologies?

Best practice: Avoid fancy-sounding technologies lacking scientific backing (ASHRAE – the leading professional society for building engineers – provides lots of good diligence resources….reference below!)

We sign off with a quote from famed airborne disease expert Dr. Linsey Marr:

“You wouldn’t drink a glass of water full of pathogens, chemicals and dirt. Why should we put up with breathing contaminated air?”

Here’s to raising our collective indoor air quality game!

Your Nerdy Girls


Tara Parker-Pope, “6 Questions to Ask About Covid and Air Quality at Work.”

Dr. Linsey Marr, “What We Know about Covid, the Flu, and the Air We Breathe.” 10/19/21. Includes final quote.

For a deeper dive into best practices, we recommend the a-mazing materials created by ASHRAE, the leading building engineering professional society.

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