Maintaining clean air in a health facility can be challenging due to the wide range of pollutants, such as dust, pathogens, and chemical compounds that HVAC units need to handle.
Unfortunately, the cost of not properly maintaining the air can be high, and, in some cases, air pollution can have adverse effects on staff and patients’ health. However, various air quantity solutions can help hospitals improve their atmosphere. Here are some ways to maintain clean air in a health facility.
1. Regularly Change Air Filters
A clogged and dirty air filter in the HVAC system is the first barrier to poor air quality. A standard central heating and cooling system circulates about 1000 cubic feet of air per minute through the filter. That means the entire air volume in your health facility passes through the filter multiple times daily.
A clean filter can eliminate airborne residues effectively, including dust and invisible microscopic contaminants. On the other hand, a dirty filter can make indoor air quality poor by acting as a reservoir for dust, debris, and other airborne pollutants that are continuously circulated back into the indoor air. During both the fall and winter seasons, change the filter monthly.
2. Use Dehumidifiers or Exhaust Fans to Reduce Humidity and Mold
Humid and moist conditions can lead to mold and mildew accumulation, triggering respiratory issues such as asthma or allergies in patients. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor humidity should be between 30% and 60%.
Depending on the hospital location, the hot summer season can lead to humid conditions. Reduce the amount of moisture in the air and prevent the growth of irritating mold or mildew with some well-placed dehumidifiers or exhaust fans.
3. Invest in Indoor Plants to Freshen the Air
Plants can act as natural air filters. Indoor plants can add a pleasing curb appeal to any health facility and absorb toxins while giving out more oxygen. This means workers and patients will be able to breathe more easily. Small plants such as lilies, ferns, or palm trees are some of the best options to remove contaminants from the air.
4. Keep the Facility Clean
Regularly dust, sanitize, vacuum, clean clutter, and immediately dispose of all garbage as it accumulates. Often, it’s best to schedule routine professional cleanings to ensure the cleanliness of the health facility doesn’t get overlooked. Maintaining a clean facility ensures fewer pollutants get a chance to mix with the air and trigger the patients’ health issues or make the employees sick.
5. Use Active Ionization Technology
Active ionization technology has increased power and has proven to be active on pollen, mold, dust, fine dust, viruses, tobacco smoke, and bacteria. Depending on their size, these contaminants can get into the body and cause damage to specific organs. Legionella is one of the most dangerous airborne contaminants and a common problem that causes thousands of deaths every year. Quality active ionization air cleaners can help eliminate this problem since they capture and inactivate pollen, fungus, dust mites, and other contaminants.
6. Establish an Effective Smoking Policy
Cigarette smoking can pose many health effects to smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke. Moreover, environmental tobacco smoke in a health facility can increase the cost of maintaining the ventilation system and cleaning or replacing smoke-soiled equipment.
Establishing a smoke-free policy in the facility or working with the management to put in place a properly ventilated smoking room that doesn’t allow smoke to circulate through the central ventilation system to adjoining rooms can help maintain clean air.
7. Have Air Quality Tested Regularly
Specialists in air quality have the appropriate tools and understand how to measure air quality in health facilities, including airflow, mold growth, water damage, ventilation, odors, and humidity levels. After a thorough inspection and testing, you will know what needs to be fixed to enhance airflow quality in the facility.
8. Control the Source of Indoor Air Pollution
Source control involves removing indoor air pollution from its cause. Routine activities such as foot traffic, painting, and machine operation can lead to air pollution. However, significant air contamination may occur due to abnormalities such as filter blowout or chemical leaks.
If you can identify the source of pollution, remove it from the facility. When this isn’t possible, take the necessary measures to ensure that these sources are adequately covered and kept away from patients and staff, or ventilations are increased.
9. Clean the Air Ducts and Vents Regularly
Air ducts help circulate warm and cold air throughout a health facility, providing a comfortable atmosphere in every space. However, if the vents are poorly installed or not maintained, they can circulate air contaminants from one room to another. Eventually, dander, dust, and mold may build up in the ducts, lowering the overall air quality.
Even a small amount of mold can present new dangers. Anyone inside the hospital might experience different symptoms such as coughing, watery or itchy eyes, rashes, or wheezing. Hire a professional duct cleaning company to ensure your ducts and vents are circulating fresh, clean air.
Health facilities should also consider cleaning the ducts and vents after renovation projects. Drywall dust can quickly collect in these areas and might trigger respiratory problems such as wheezing or dry coughs.
10. Upgrade the HVAC Systems Regularly
The role of HVAC units is to maintain optimal air quality by controlling temperature, water content, pathogens, ventilation, and distribution. Ensure the older HVAC systems in the facility are regularly reassessed by experts, and if necessary, filters should be upgraded and their flow pattern revised. This helps prevent dust and other air contaminants from circulating back into the indoor air.
11. Add Specialized Filtration Equipment
If the air quality in the health facility is impacted by uncontrollable gasses, viruses, and chemical pollutants, consider adding specialized equipment to clean the air. The best air purifier for allergies can help remove harmful particles from the air, kill mold, and eliminate 100% of most viruses. High-quality portable filtration systems use five layers of filtration for the cleanest air possible and don’t require any installation.
12. Improve Ventilation
Another simple way to maintain the air quality in a health facility is to bring more fresh air into the building. Opening doors and windows, running attic fans when the weather allows, or running an air conditioner with the vent control open can increase the outdoor ventilation rate. Kitchen or bathroom fans that exhaust outdoors can also help increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.
However, it is essential to note that although increasing ventilation will help remove contaminated air, it can also lead to higher energy consumption. As such, you need to consider doing air quality monitoring.
13. Avoid Products or Procedures That Cause Air Pollution
Most common products used in hospital facilities, such as adhesives, detergents, disinfectants, and air fresheners, can produce smells and pollutants. If any of these products must be used in a health facility, adequate and, in some cases, separate ventilation should be provided.
In addition, if the health facility engages in activities that may generate pollutants, such as printing or photographic processes, it’s advisable to have exhaust ventilation. Pollutants or smells generated in the hospital may enter the facility ventilation system and cause issues for the patients and staff in the building.
14. Use Air Quality Monitoring Systems
Air monitoring systems help keep track of common hospital pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds. This can offer staff better information about indoor air quality conditions, and they can know which systems are most effective. They can also take advantage of the latest technology like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to give more frequent updates or better coverage of the health facility’s air quality.
15. Train the Staff on Air Pollution
In-house air pollution control personnel should be trained on things such as:
- When to call for maintenance, including filter changes
- How to monitor airflow and read pressure
- How to use hospital tools and equipment properly
- When to use containment tools
Education is an ongoing need, so ensure that employees receive continuous training on operating and maintaining the system they use. Instead of assuming the training is 100% effective, monitor how well they are doing. You can even call the hospital equipment manufacturer to come in and offer training, pointers, and updates.
16. Get Over Body Odor
Most people don’t consider body odor an air pollutant, but it is. It is a biological contaminant, and the sweat smell or scent from strong perfumes can easily reduce the air quality of a health facility.
In addition, most fragrance ingredients are sensitizers and respiratory irritants, which can aggravate sinus or trigger asthma. As such, it is recommended to issue a warning that discourages the use of strong perfumes or body lotion while a nurse or a doctor is in the office or attending to a patient.
Maintaining clean air is essential in increasing a health facility’s efficiency and enhancing the patients’ and employees’ health and safety. Assessing air quality is critical, but there is much more than getting back some test results. If you notice any air contamination problem in the facility, consult experts to apply the right air quality solutions. In addition, use continuous monitoring to manage your indoor environment proactively rather than reactively.