Why ignore a resource that might save lives even when Coronavirus isn’t raging?

Elder care image Amanda Mills CDC
Photo by Amanda Mills, CDC

In a previous article at Indie Art South I asked why media aren’t looking at the implication of indoor air quality amid this Coronavirus pandemic. Indoor air quality is probably the least discussed topic in healthcare, even when an illness like Coronavirus isn’t raging.

Ask yourself a question. What would happen if you walked into a nursing home and lit a cigarette?

You’d be shown the door and maybe even prosecuted, not only because of oxygen tanks on the premises but also because of potential harm to others’ lungs. Yet those same facilities often come up short on indoor air quality despite the fact there are budget friendly fixes.

Can air purifiers and special HVAC filters help prevent the Coronavirus from spreading? No one knows the answer to that because this novel virus is a very strange entity seemingly having the ability to jump from humans to tigers. Various devices already exist to address particulate transmission.

In my previous article I cited information about a device, an air purifier, produced by iWave:

“When the ions come in contact with viruses, bacteria or mold, they remove the hydrogen molecules – without them, the pathogens have no source of energy and will die.  The ions also attach to allergens like pollen and other particles, causing them to band together until they are large enough to be caught by your ventilation system’s air filter.”

We already know technology has come a long way when it comes to indoor air quality. However, we also know that many long term care facilities haven’t kept pace for various reasons. The building may be old. Funds are often limited. Designs of yesteryear weren’t created with air flow or air quality in mind. Add to that the tendency to keep the thermostat (and possibly humidity) higher when a population is elderly, and you have a perfect storm for transmission of everything from dust to pollen and from viruses to bacteria.

Indoor air quality is important all the time. It has an effect on overall health. McKnight’s, a publication devoted to long term caregiving, explained this:

“Older adults are more susceptible than younger people to the effects of airborne pollutants and may develop conditions including but not limited to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even cancer when exposed to typical contaminants in nursing homes and assisted-living settings over long periods.”

Studies have addressed the link between indoor air quality and overall lung and pulmonary health. A 2015 study conducted in Europe on air quality of nursing homes is summed up in a reader-friendly abstract:

“In industrialized countries the elderly spend most of their time indoors. The elderly may be at a higher risk of suffering from indoor air pollution-related diseases compared to the rest of the population, because of their increased exposure to potential indoor risk factors. This editorial aims to critically analyze the recent literature regarding this important topic. Results of studies performed on the elderly living in nursing homes clearly highlight that they are at risk of respiratory health impairment, even at moderate air pollutant concentrations, particularly if they are over 80 years of age and living in poorly ventilated nursing homes. The future epidemiological research on ageing and respiratory diseases should investigate the underlying biological and physiological mechanisms, in addition to the adverse health effects of potential indoor risk factors, in order to help defining effective strategies for healthy ageing.”

I remember going to see my grandmother as she was in her final days. She was in a nursing home, and the first impression I had once I walked in was the oppressive humidity. I couldn’t believe how warm it was in there. I asked about it and one of the employees told me it was because old people get cold easily.

As government officials at different levels attempt to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic, it would be a good idea to look at air filtration and purification as a means not only of improving existing health but in preventing transmission of all manner of particulates. It’s not a sexy subject, and it isn’t one of those “If it bleeds, it leads” topics.

It is, however, a timely and necessary subject, and media would be doing something good for a change by looking at this issue. I have tried to get people to listen to me on this topic, but I have failed. I posted a link to my column with a disclosure in a media group devoted to the Coronavirus. I explained I make no money from writing about this topic even though my husband is employed in the HVAC sector on the corporate level.

The moderator, in keeping with a trend towards censorship, deleted the post.

South Florida is the hardest hit area in my state from Coronavirus. On Saturday media in South Florida reported, “Nursing homes across South Florida continue to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.” Seven people in one facility had died. If we can do something to help give the elderly and fragile a small edge, why wouldn’t we do it?

Disclosure: I receive no benefits from writing about this topic. I have a unique view into the HVAC industry often completely overlooked by media and the public.

(Kay B. Day/April 6, 2020)

Petunias in bloom
Petunias in bloom. Photo by Indie Art South

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