CLEAN Lessons Learned
Indoor Air Quality as a Public Health Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Infectious Disease Transmission in the Built Environment
Indoor Air Quality as a Public Health Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Infectious Disease Transmission in the Built Environment
The session delved into the critical role of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as a pillar of public health, especially concerning the reduction of infectious disease transmission within built environments. Notably, such strategies have gained traction through collaborative efforts of prominent organizations, including AIHA and ASHRAE.
Over the duration of the discussion, a recurrent theme was the significance of upholding and advancing standards, with ASHRAE Standard 241 emerging as a notable reference. Its adoption is vital for optimizing IAQ but hinges on the endorsement of local and state authorities.
Emerging technologies, especially in contamination monitoring, have stirred interest as they promise more precise interventions. Historical health measures offered a lens to view the current scenario, drawing parallels and emphasizing equitable public health approaches.
Federal investment, exemplified by the Department of Education’s funding endeavors, spotlighted the government’s dedication to refining IAQ. As the discourse wrapped up, there was a unanimous call for sustained efforts and forward-thinking strategies to navigate the intricate landscape of IAQ, especially in an era marked by shifting health dynamics.
- Collaboration is Paramount: Organizations like AIHA and ASHRAE emphasize the need for collaboration to address the complexities of indoor air quality effectively. The call to bridge volunteer groups from these organizations reinforces this sentiment.
- The Significance of Standards: ASHRAE Standard 241 emerged as an important topic in the discussion. Such standards are vital for setting baseline requirements for indoor air quality. However, as Bill Bahnfleth (ASHRAE) pointed out, their effectiveness is contingent upon adoption by local and state authorities.
- Comprehensive Strategies: IAQ enhancement isn’t solely about addressing one issue. As Dave Rowson highlighted, it’s about diluting pollutants, filtering them out, and controlling their source. Emphasis is on various contaminants including radon, particulate matter, biological contaminants, and chemical contaminants.
- Emerging Technologies: Monitoring is becoming increasingly vital. With advancements in sensor technology, there’s potential for more effective interventions against specific contaminants.
- Public Health Considerations: Both Dr. Gronvall and Dr. Allen shed light on the broader context of public health and building systems. Historical context, like the discovery of the cholera bacteria’s transmission through water, emphasizes that new public health measures may take time to implement, but their benefits are immense.
- Equity in Health: The discussion touched upon the importance of equity in public health interventions. Dr. Allen’s emphasis on upgrading the standards of poorly performing buildings, particularly in underserved areas, highlights this.
- Federal Involvement: The mention of funding from the Department of Education shows the involvement and commitment of federal authorities in addressing IAQ.
- Ongoing Efforts and Proactivity: The session ends on a note of vigilance and proactivity. As Kenneth Martinez concluded, with the evolving nature of health challenges, staying ahead and being proactive about IAQ is imperative.
IBEC’s Chief Science Officer and Board founding member
Ken is an Environmental Engineer and Industrial Hygienist with experience in leading and conducting large-scale research, managing programs in occupational safety and health and emergency response; and creating and teaching professional development courses. He has over 33 years of CDC expertise in hazardous agent exposure characterization and mitigation control practices in the manufacturing and healthcare industry. Since retiring from the CDC, he served eight years in the CBRN space as a consultant focusing on a national biodetection program. Mr. Martinez is a recognized subject matter expert in biological agents, including infectious disease and bioterrorism agents.
IBEC’s Executive Secretary
Claire Bird, the new Executive Secretary at IBEC, is a passionate scientist and entrepreneur, driving healthier building standards through her laboratory management, training, and consulting expertise. Through LITMAS laboratory, she’s committed to delivering established and innovative solutions. As a dedicated advocate, Claire volunteers as an expert in indoor air quality (IAQ) across global professional bodies, emphasizing the need to protect occupants from chemical and microbiological hazards. Her mission amplifies the importance of IAQ within the industry and regulations. Moreover, she collaborates internationally, ensuring timely, relevant industry standards that align promptly with current scientific knowledge.
Coby Gierke is a distinguished leader with vast experience in numerous sectors. Currently, as Interim Executive Director at IBEC, he advances the Commit to C.A.R.E. program, securing endorsements from the CDC, AIHA, and the White House. He’s transformed educational events, introduced novel initiatives, and upheld regulatory standards. At Montana State Parks Foundation, Coby established key partnerships, managed finances, and initiated fundraising strategies, propelling the foundation to a prominent state role. Committed to personal and organizational growth, he’s attended several leadership trainings. Holding dual degrees from Portland State University, Coby’s leadership consistently instigates positive change, benefiting various organizations and communities.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA
James Frederick boasts a distinguished career in occupational health and safety spanning three decades, where he has consistently served as a reliable advocate and resource for North American labor unions, employers, and regulatory agencies. His comprehensive understanding of workplace safety has its roots in a 25-year tenure with the Health, Safety, and Environment Department of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Serving as the Assistant Director and Principal Investigator until 2019, Frederick became a linchpin for technical guidance on occupational health, safety, and the environment. He collaborated closely with management counterparts in the USW and organizations worldwide on diverse projects to improve workplace health and safety. A scholar at heart, Frederick holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health (Industrial Hygiene) from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Environmental Health and Safety Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. His commitment to the field is evidenced by his service to multiple safety and health groups, including NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselor, ANSI Z10 standard committee, US committee contributing to the ISO 45001 standard, NIOSH, NORA Traumatic Injury Prevention Council, NIEHS Worker Training Program, National Clearinghouse Advisory Committee, and OSHA’s Standards Advisory Committee on Metalworking Fluids. James Frederick embodies a profound understanding of health, safety, and environmental concerns in occupational settings, backed by his extensive field experience and academic achievements. His leadership in occupational health and safety continues to impact and inspire changes in workplace safety standards on a global scale.
Dr. Gigi Gronvall
Associate Professor of Public Health, Johns-Hopkins Center for Health Security
Dr. Gigi Gronvall holds esteemed positions as a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Trained as an immunologist, her extensive knowledge and dedication have profoundly influenced the health and engineering fields. Throughout the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Gronvall steered the Center’s efforts to monitor the development and distribution of diagnostic tests. She has spearheaded initiatives to enhance indoor air quality, a key strategy in reducing pathogen transmission. Her guidance has been instrumental for K-12 schools, and she played a pivotal role in creating the Model State Indoor Air Quality Act. She has also authored thought-provoking pieces on the scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the contentious origins of SARS-CoV-2, and the pandemic’s national and international security implications. In her influential book, “Synthetic Biology: Safety, Security, and Promise,” Dr. Gronvall explores the fascinating field of synthetic biology. She outlines strategies to mitigate technical and social risks, maximize benefits, and emphasizes the crucial roles of biosecurity, biosafety, ethics, and US national competitiveness in enhancing national security. Dr. Gronvall’s expertise is recognized and valued by several prominent bodies, including the Department of State’s International Security Advisory Board, NIH’s Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee (NExTRAC) National Academies Forum on Microbial Threats. Dr. Gigi Gronvall continues illuminating the way forward at the intersection of immunology, environmental health, and national security. Her leadership and vision are vital in the continuous struggle to safeguard public health and improve indoor air quality.
Dr. Joseph Allen
Assistant Professor of Exposure, Assessment Science, Harvard University
Dr. Joseph G. Allen is an esteemed Assistant Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His career began with conducting comprehensive forensic health investigations of sick buildings across various industries, including healthcare, biotechnology, education, commercial office real estate, and manufacturing. His deep dive into these diverse environments nurtured an unwavering commitment to fostering healthier buildings worldwide. At Harvard, Dr. Allen spearheads the Healthy Buildings program, underpinned by ‘The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building’, a framework he meticulously developed. He also lends his Harvard Healthier Building Materials Academy faculty advisor expertise. Collaborating with Fortune 100 companies, he helps integrate Healthy Building strategies into their global portfolios and actively contributes to international discussions on Healthy Buildings. Dr. Allen’s groundbreaking work has caught the attention of various renowned media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, National Geographic, Time, NPR, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Fortune, and The New York Times. In the academic world, he serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology and the journal Indoor Air. Dr. Allen holds a Doctor of Science (DSc) and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Boston University School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology from Boston College. For more insight into his impactful research, please visit www.ForHealth.org. Through his innovative research and influential roles, Dr. Allen is continuously shaping the future of environmental health, emphasizing the crucial role of Healthy Buildings in promoting public well-being.
Donna S. Heidel
Past President, American Industrial Hygiene Association
Donna Heidel is the esteemed Past President of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and is currently the Principal Industrial Hygienist for a major e-commerce company. In this position, she leads complex risk assessments and outlines effective risk mitigation strategies, chiefly focusing on minimizing exposure to airborne infectious aerosols among associates. In her role at Amazon, Heidel promotes the integration of exposure controls for various industrial hygiene health hazards, including chemicals, noise, and heat. These measures are carefully implemented during the design, specification, and retrofit stages of buildings, processes, work methods, and equipment, ensuring maximum safety for all involved. Before her tenure at Amazon, Heidel’s wealth of experience included serving as the Industrial Hygiene practice leader for a consulting firm, coordinating the Prevention through Design program at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and directing industrial hygiene and occupational toxicology at a major pharmaceutical company. Heidel’s academic accomplishments include earning a Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene. She is certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (CIH) and holds the esteemed title of Fellow within AIHA. Her comprehensive knowledge and proactive approach in industrial hygiene have led to significant strides in enhancing workplace safety and minimizing risk.
William Bahnfleth, PhD
Professor of Architectural Engineering at Penn State and chair of ASHRAE Standard 241
Dr. William Bahnfleth is a Professor of Architectural Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. He holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and is a Registered Professional Engineer. He has held prior positions as a facilities engineering researcher and consulting engineer. He is a Fellow and past President of ASHRAE, Vice-President of the Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance, and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the International Society for Indoor Air and Climate.
Dr. Bahnfleth’s teaching and research focus on designing and operating energy-efficient systems for indoor thermal and air quality control. His research primarily considers the control of bioaerosols with lower energy use alternatives to dilution with outdoor air. His involvement in biosecurity dates to the turn of the century when he became deeply involved in chem/bio weapons defense following terrorist anthrax attacks on US buildings. He has assisted many public and private organizations, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the White House, CDC/NIOSH, EPA, and National Academies.
Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States early in 2020, Dr. Bahnfleth has been heavily engaged in many of the interlocking issues of the US and global responses. He provided testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. He is a member of an international group of 36 scientists organized by Australian scholar Lidia Morawska that has presented evidence for the importance of airborne disease transmission and argued for the need to raise indoor air quality standards in many scientific publications and opinion pieces, including an influential “open letter to WHO” signed by more than 200 researchers.
Dr. Bahnfleth chaired the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, which made one of the earliest statements recognizing the need to upgrade building ventilation systems to mitigate risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and developed an extensive and widely used body of guidance within a few months of beginning its work. More recently, he chaired the committee tasked with developing ASHRAE Standard 241 Control of Infectious Aerosols at the request of White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. The new standard, approved for publication by ASHRAE in June 2024, was delivered within six months of the ASHRAE board’s approval of the project, with only 116 days of development time. Dr. Jha has referred to Standard 241 as “one of the most important public health interventions I have seen in years if not decades.”
Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Environments Division, EPA.
Dave Rowson is the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Environments Division. His office protects public health from poor indoor air quality in homes, schools, offices, and other building types. During his career at EPA, Dave has led the development and implementation of multiple important public health initiatives, including radon, comprehensive asthma care, healthy schools, international programs on indoor air, and EPA’s indoor air response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hello and welcome, everyone. I’m Coby Gierke, the Executive Director of IBEC Inc. It’s a pleasure to have you all join us today for the first part of our “Lessons Learned” series, a collaborative effort between IBEC and our generous sponsor, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Given the overwhelming interest, we even expanded our available spaces. I’d like to thank AIHA for supporting and actively promoting this event. Additionally, I appreciate the partner organizations and individuals who spread the word, making this gathering successful.
It’s a point of pride for IBEC to host complimentary events like today’s, made possible by the unwavering support from our members and partners. I encourage everyone to explore more about IBEC and our various initiatives. To get involved or become a member, please visit weareIBEC.org.
Without further delay, I’m sure you’re eager to engage with our distinguished speaker and panelists.
Thank you, Coby. Hello, everyone. I’m Claire Bird, the Executive Secretary of IBEC. As we wait for Ken’s reconnection, I’d like to provide an overview of today’s event.
Earlier this year, our organizations, including IBEC, had the privilege to be invited to Washington, DC, for a meeting with Dr. Jha, then the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. The core of our discussion with Dr. Jha revolved around the role of indoor air quality in curbing infectious diseases within built environments. Although the Federal Public Health Emergency has since been lifted, the resurgence in COVID-19 hospitalizations and fatalities is alarming. Today’s session aims to reconvene and extend our dialogue from that pivotal meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
And it seems Ken is back. Over to you, Ken, for the panel introduction.
Today’s session is instrumental, Emphasizing the significance of our prior meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. At that crucial gathering, spearheaded by Dr. Jha, the focus was unmistakably on the nexus between indoor air quality and infectious diseases in our built environments. The organizations represented today were those very same voices invited to that dialogue. Our collective aim is to revisit and delve deeper into those discussions, amplifying awareness amongst a wider audience about indoor air quality’s pivotal role in curbing infectious diseases.
Allow me to briefly introduce our esteemed panel, with in-depth introductions to follow:
- James Frederick – He serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor from OSHA. James will elucidate OSHA’s ongoing efforts and strategies related to indoor air quality standards.
- Dr. Gigi Gronvall – As an Associate Professor of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Gronvall will lend her academic expertise on the contemporary state of indoor air quality and its ramifications.
- Dr. Joseph Allen – An Assistant Professor renowned for his work on exposure assessments and the challenges posed by indoor air quality research.
- Donna Heidel – The former president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, Donna will offer an industrial viewpoint coupled with a safety and health perspective on advancements in indoor air quality.
- Dr. William Bahnfleth – Chairing the recently published infection control standard 241 by the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Dr. Bahnfleth will shed light on evolving standards in this domain.
- Dave Rowson – As the current director of the EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, Dave brings a wealth of experience to our discussions.
Lastly, let me introduce my co-moderator, Claire, who you’ve already met. As the Executive Secretary of IBEC, she will guide each speaker in sharing their background and organizational affiliations.
I’m truly filled with enthusiasm for today’s session. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all our speakers and panelists for investing their time and expertise in this event. We’ve been eager to foster dialogue between top-tier academics and industry professionals. I genuinely believe that this session, irrespective of where you are and what time it is for you, will play a pivotal role in unifying our efforts across the three core domains: buildings, pathogens, and paper – the pillars that IBEC is built upon.
For those joining us, I encourage active participation. Share your feedback and inquiries in the chat box; we’re keen to hear from you.
Now, let’s proceed. Over to you for the introduction of James Frederick.
It brings me immense pleasure and honor to introduce James Frederick. Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with him four times. Our most recent interaction was at the NIHS – the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences – during a worker training program. Jim delivered a riveting presentation there, captivating our attention effortlessly.
With a formidable career spanning over three decades in Occupational Safety and Health, Jim is a beacon of expertise and commitment. His legacy as a steadfast advocate for North American labor unions, employers, and regulatory agencies is undisputed. A testament to his profound grasp of workplace safety is his dedicated 25-year stint with the Health Safety Environment Department at the United Steelworkers, where he held pivotal roles as Assistant Director and Principal Investigator up until 2019. Within this capacity, Jim was the go-to expert for insights on occupational health, safety, and environmental matters. His collaborations have extended globally, partnering with diverse entities on myriad projects to enhance scientific and environmental health understandings.
Jim’s academic credentials are equally commendable. He’s an alumnus of Purdue University, holding a Bachelor’s in Industrial Hygiene, and secured a Master of Science in Environmental Health and Safety Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. His dedication to Occupational Safety and Health isn’t confined to his professional roles; he has lent his expertise to various esteemed groups, including the NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors, the NCSY 10 Standard Committee, and the US ISO 45001 standard committee.
Possessing a holistic understanding of health and safety, enriched by vast field experience and scholastic pursuits, Jim’s leadership in Occupational Safety and Health has been instrumental in sculpting global workplace safety standards.
James, it’s a privilege to welcome you. We’re truly honored to have you as our keynote speaker today.
Thank you, Ken. Good evening, good morning, and all times in between. I’m delighted to discuss indoor air quality from the standpoint of the US Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Warm regards from the Department of Labor’s Acting Secretary, Julie Sue, and Assistant Secretary of Labor, Doug Parker, who heads OSHA. Thank you, Ken, and to the integrated bioscience and built environment Consortium for your invaluable work promoting safety and health. Special thanks to AIHA and Larry Sloan for connecting us tonight. AIHA and OSHA’s formal collaboration dates back to 2002 and was reinforced in February 2020, right before COVID-19 reshaped our world. In March 2020, a national emergency was declared concerning this outbreak. One key lesson from these past years is the importance of clean indoor air.
Every day, I reflect on the number “14” – the average daily count of workers who succumb to acute work-related injuries. According to the most recent data from 2021, 5,190 workers died due to on-job hazards. This translates to 14 deaths daily, five every eight-hour shift. This doesn’t account for occupational disease deaths or the 2.6 million workers who suffered non-fatal injuries. Behind these figures are actual individuals, their families, and communities. OSHA envisions safety and health as a core value in all American workplaces, with clean air being fundamental.
COVID-19 highlighted the significance of clean indoor air. The Biden administration, in March 2022, introduced the “clean air in buildings challenge” to combat COVID-19 spread indoors. Collaborative government efforts have since been made to improve indoor air quality.
OSHA, as a regulatory agency, emphasizes the enforcement of standards. Our enforcement team addresses various air quality issues, from exposure to harmful gasses to mold and temperature concerns. We’re updating our technical manual to release the updated indoor air quality chapter by 2024. But, true advancements in indoor air quality necessitate partnerships and collaborations.
Several companies, like Phillips 66, Vantage Oleochemicals, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and Delta Airlines, have taken notable steps to ensure indoor air quality. OSHA offers various training and compliance assistance programs to help businesses establish effective safety and health management systems.
A critical aspect of indoor air quality is equity. Historically, marginalized workers often find themselves in jobs with poor air quality. Every worker deserves equal access to clean air. The collaboration between the American Industrial Hygiene Association and OSHA is pivotal to improving indoor air quality. We value this partnership and look forward to its growth. Thank you for this platform, and I now hand it back.
Thank you, Jim, for your insightful presentation. We appreciate your time today. Now, we’ll proceed to the panel discussion. Claire, please introduce our first two panelists.
Thank you, Ken. First, a heartfelt thanks to James for his impactful introduction. Also, we thank the American Industrial Hygiene Association and IBEC for organizing today’s session. We’ll soon hear from Donna Heidel, their former past president. But first, let me introduce Professor William Bahnfleth. Dr. Bahnfleth, a professor at the Department of Architectural Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois. His experience spans research, government labs, and professional practice. He aims to bridge the gap between practical application and scientific research. He is an esteemed fellow of ASHRAE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate. With over 170 journal articles and 14 book contributions, Dr. Bahnfleth chairs the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force. His tenure at ASHRAE includes roles like director, vice president, treasurer, and society president during 2013-14. He has been recognized with various ASHRAE awards, including their highest individual accolade, the F. Paul Anderson Award. Bill, please share ASHRAE’s contributions.
Bill, we can’t hear you. I suggest we let Donna speak while you resolve the issue. I experienced similar technical difficulties earlier.
Alright. While Bill fixes his audio, let’s move on to Donna Heidel from the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Donna’s rich background includes leadership roles in industrial hygiene at a consultancy, coordination at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and directing industrial hygiene and occupational toxicology at a leading pharmaceutical company. She holds a Master of Science in industrial hygiene and is certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. Additionally, she has the esteemed title of fellow within the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Her profound knowledge of industrial hygiene has significantly advanced workplace safety and risk reduction. Donna, please share insights from AIHA’s work.
Thank you for inviting me to this panel. I’ll outline the role of the Industrial Hygienist in managing indoor air quality. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) caters to industrial hygiene professionals across various sectors. AIHA contributes to indoor air quality by creating publications and documents offering technical procedures for assessing and addressing indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns. This includes investigating contaminant concentrations from equipment, manufacturing processes, or outdoor sources like wildfire smoke and vehicle emissions. We also examine indoor temperature and humidity, ensure fresh air provision based on occupancy, and inspect for mold and Legionella.
Collaborating with HVAC engineers and building ventilation maintainers, Industrial Hygienists utilize the ASHRAE Standard 62.1 to maintain acceptable indoor air quality. We advise building managers on air quality, recommend interventions, and suggest high-efficiency filters for wildfire smoke or exhaust systems for welding fumes. Addressing water intrusion sources is crucial to managing mold, and increasing fresh air intake can reduce exhaled carbon dioxide levels.
Our indoor air quality resources are accessible on the AIHA website. Our proficiency in managing indoor air quality was particularly useful during the pandemic, allowing us to enhance ventilation system controls. Supported by CDC NIOSH grants, AIHA launched the ‘commit to care’ initiative in partnership with IBEC. This involved updating AIHA’s publication on the Industrial Hygienist’s role during pandemics, introducing multilingual resources, and offering guidance for various industries. With another grant in late 2022, we expanded our knowledge products on topics like ventilation and disinfection, which became accessible on Commit to C.A.R.E. in 2023. Another phase, due later this year, will update our original guidance into a comprehensive ‘healthier workplaces’ guide.
Lastly, AIHA’s indoor environmental quality committee released a guide on mitigating COVID-19 risks using engineering controls. This included recommendations on improving air change rates, assessing airflow’s role in particle transportation, identifying poorly ventilated building areas, and deploying air-cleaning technologies like HEPA filters and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.
Thank you for allowing me to share about AIHA’s contribution to indoor air quality.
Thanks, Donna. Your relationship with OSHA sounds intriguing. Can you share more about how that partnership functions?
Absolutely. We collaborate closely with OSHA, inviting them to participate in various task forces and committees. This fosters knowledge sharing between employers and OSHA’s insights from workplaces. Additionally, we share academic research with OSHA to benefit both entities.
Thank you, Donna. That’s truly commendable. And I see we have Bill back. Bill, could you delve into ASHRAE’s work and touch on standard 241?
Of course. ASHRAE, founded in 1894 as the American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers, has always prioritized air quality. While I won’t delve deep into our century-long history, a few key achievements are worth noting. Many recognize ASHRAE for our air quality standards, like 62.1 and 62.2, targeting residential and non-residential buildings, and 170, specific to health care ventilation. We also set standards for filter MERV ratings and even Legionella control.
Recognizing the significance of health experts’ input, we’ve maintained an Environmental Health Committee since 1985. Our Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) conference, initiated around the same time, will see its 20th edition in 2025. Additionally, we have numerous technical committees focused on IAQ and health. In 2014, we established the Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance, with AIHA as a charter member.
Shifting to infection control, one of ASHRAE’s earliest recommendations in 1895 was building ventilation to control infection risk. This guidance made its way into numerous state codes by 1922. Fast forward to the pandemic, and ASHRAE formed an Epidemic Task Force, producing valuable guidance. Recently, after discussions with the White House and its COVID-19 Response Team, we were tasked to create a pathogen control standard. Completed in a record six months, this standard offers equivalent clean air requirements across various spaces introduces measures for air cleaner testing, and emphasizes system assessment, planning, and maintenance.
Though I served as the past chair of this standard’s committee, it’s now a standing committee. We’re not only spreading the word about it but are also preparing for its further development. We aim to bolster building resilience against airborne infections and, more broadly, elevate indoor air quality. ASHRAE’s current efforts in this domain are unmatched in our history, and we’re dedicated to making a lasting impact.
That’s a brief overview of ASHRAE’s endeavors in IAQ. There’s certainly more, but time constraints a deeper dive.
Thank you, Dr. Bahnfleth. Your efforts have garnered global attention, especially during such a brief period. The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heating (AIRAH) have also closely monitored these developments. Furthermore, I’d like to express our gratitude for your contributions as one of IBEC’s scientific advisors. With that said, could you enlighten us on what you deem as the most urgent needs concerning building standards and regulations for infection risk mitigation?
First and foremost, standards are pivotal. Over the last few years, I’ve emphasized implementing minimum standards as they drive change. There’s a noticeable gap due to prolonged underfunding in indoor air quality research. With growing awareness and support, now is the time to address these questions through further research. Equally crucial is emphasizing the importance of building maintenance and operational standards. The U.S., for instance, lacks regulation in this area post-construction. Implementing periodic building assessments to ensure optimal performance is essential. Proper maintenance ensures better air quality and can result in energy savings. We can achieve improved air quality through well-structured standards, like 241, without escalating energy consumption.
Thank you for the insights. Ken, back to you.
Appreciate it, Claire. Please submit your questions via chat to our speakers, and we’ll address them later. Thanks to Bill and Donna for their informative sessions. Now, I’d like to introduce Dave Rowson from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he oversees the indoor environments division. Dave has spearheaded numerous initiatives throughout his tenure, ranging from radon and asthma care to international indoor air programs and EPA’s indoor air response to COVID-19. Dave, could you shed light on the EPA’s endeavors related to indoor environments?
Thank you, Ken. Good morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on where you are globally. It’s an honor to be among these esteemed panelists discussing indoor air as a public health strategy. As Director of the Indoor Environments Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I lead a non-regulatory branch that offers guidance, technical aid, outreach, and financial support for healthy indoor air.
Our mission addresses public health risks through guidance on radon, mold, viruses, VOCs, indoor particulate matter, asthma triggers, and secondhand smoke. Our primary authority derives from two legislative pieces—one providing a broad directive for research on indoor air risks and public information and the other focused on radon.
Interest in indoor air quality has surged, especially during the pandemic. We’ve observed record interactions with our online content and an increased engagement in our webinars. New initiatives from the administration and Congress further solidify this interest. Among our new responsibilities are the $50 million appropriation for promoting healthy indoor air in schools and a $10 million program on wildfire smoke preparedness.
Furthermore, we’re emphasizing the significance of effective ventilation, dilution, filtration, and air cleaning to combat COVID-19 transmission and promote better indoor air quality. But it’s essential to remember that these solutions don’t address all indoor air problems. Source control remains vital.
I’m thrilled to be here and eagerly await our discussion.
Thank you, Dave. Given the growing concerns around air quality and disease transmission in educational spaces, could you elaborate on the EPA’s efforts to enhance indoor air quality practices in schools?
The pandemic emphasized the crucial role schools play in our society. We’ve focused extensively on aiding schools in reopening safely for students and the wider community. While every environment is essential, schools—especially those in disadvantaged communities—face unique infrastructure and investment challenges.
To address this, the Congress and administration allocated $50 million via the Inflation Reduction Act for the EPA, aimed at school indoor air quality. While this amount might seem limited for infrastructural changes, our goal is to guide schools towards effective and sustainable investments, especially those in disadvantaged areas. Significant funding has also been made available through the Department of Education. We aim to steer these investments effectively, ensuring the health and safety of our future generations.
Thank you, Dave. Let’s pivot and delve into academia to discuss some critical initiatives. I’d like to introduce Dr. Gigi Gronvall, Assistant Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Gigi holds an esteemed position as a Senior Scholar at the Center. She is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Berg School of Public Health. A trained immunologist, Gigi’s expertise has deeply influenced both health and engineering fields. She has led the center’s initiatives to monitor diagnostic test developments during the COVID-19 pandemic and championed enhancing indoor air quality to reduce pathogen transmission, particularly in schools. Gigi also played a pivotal role in crafting the Model State Indoor Air Quality Act and has authored pieces on the pandemic’s scientific response and its security implications globally.
Thank you, Kenneth, for the introduction. I’m honored to discuss our efforts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Operating within the Bloomberg School of Public Health, our center functions like a think tank, aiming to translate scientific research and public health knowledge into actionable policies. We’ve been active for two decades, founded by D.A. Henderson, the mind behind the smallpox eradication campaign. I’m privileged to work alongside Dr. Paula Olsiewski and Dr. Richard Bruns regarding indoor air quality. We have convened experts, hosted conferences, and documented best practices observed during the pandemic. For example, our soon-to-be-published study examines how a well-funded school system in Manhattan and the Baltimore City Public Schools enhanced indoor air quality and COVID-19 mitigation measures. We’re thrilled to launch a Model State Indoor Air Quality Act today. Created in collaboration with experts and legal professionals from Arizona State University, it aims to provide states with the necessary structure to enforce indoor air quality standards. We aim to build an infrastructure that ensures everyone can breathe clean, healthy air.
Thank you, Gigi. I’m aware you’ve explored challenges the world faced during the pandemic and the implications of SARS-CoV-2 on global security. Can you summarize your findings in a sentence or two for our discussion?
Certainly, while there were many complexities during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, the robust response of the scientific community stood out. The rapid development of vaccines is a testament to that. Going forward, the scientific community needs strategies to counter misinformation and ensure that science remains a trusted source of truth.
Well said, Gigi. I’ll hand it over to Claire to introduce Dr. Joseph Allen.
Thank you. Dr. Joseph Allen is an esteemed Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health assistant professor. Beginning his career investigating sick buildings in various industries, he developed a commitment to promoting global healthier buildings. Dr. Allen spearheads the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard and advises the Harvard Healthier Building Materials Academy. Additionally, he’s an associate editor for the Indoor Air Journal and the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Dr. Allen actively promotes healthy building strategies by collaborating with Fortune 100 companies and contributing to international discussions. His research and public roles underscore the importance of healthy buildings for well-being. I eagerly await his insights today. Joe, the floor is yours.
Thank you, Claire, for the warm welcome. I’ll touch upon three roles and the changes I’ve witnessed post-COVID. Firstly, as a professor at Harvard, I’ve been leading the Healthy Buildings Program for two decades. Secondly, as a commissioner for the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, I chaired the Task Force on Safe Work, School, and Travel. I’ve consulted for 20 years on healthy building strategies and resolving building-related health issues.
There are five significant shifts in our perspective on buildings and air quality. The foremost is the acknowledgment of airborne transmission of diseases like COVID-19. We emphasized the importance of improved ventilation and air purification early in the pandemic, and now major medical journals also recognize airborne transmission as a dominant mode. Secondly, there’s a renewed focus on health-based ventilation standards. During the pandemic, a few of us set ventilation targets, eventually leading to new standards by ASHRAE and the CDC.
The third shift is the technological advancements that empower the public to monitor building air quality. Recently, we collaborated with Amazon to develop real-time indoor air quality monitoring. Fourthly, the focus has expanded to consider other factors like lighting, acoustics, and materials, as highlighted in our ‘Nine Foundations of a Healthy Building’ report. Lastly, as the urgency of COVID-19 decreases, the climate crisis demands attention. We must ensure that our emphasis on energy-efficient buildings doesn’t compromise indoor air quality and health.
Thank you, Joe. The changes are indeed noteworthy. Regarding the Nine Foundations, do you foresee existing building performance certifications adapting to encompass health, or is there a need for new tools?
While there are prevalent certifications like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), there’s also a surge in health-based building certifications. However, some organizations might feel overwhelmed with these certifications. Grounding our practices in the latest science is crucial, not just standards. Making claims about a building’s health requires utmost diligence and avoiding shortcuts. Mistakes in energy efficiency might not have immediate repercussions, but compromising health can have dire consequences.
Thank you. I’ll now hand it back over to Ken for our incoming questions.
Thank you, Claire. My camera seems to be malfunctioning, but that won’t hinder our Q&A. I noticed an alert suggesting technical issues with Safari, but I don’t need a camera for this. To direct a question at Bill: Beyond research and establishing standards, what can organizations like ASHRAE and AIHA do to minimize the airborne transmission of diseases indoors?
That’s a significant question. Today, in another webinar, I mentioned that real-world application involves three essential aspects: Science, public perception, and regulatory acceptance. While research is fundamental, public awareness and governmental acknowledgment are equally crucial. To sustain interest in indoor air quality, we must consistently educate the public about its significance and the authorities about its relevance. Professional training is also paramount. Most professionals who design and operate buildings have been educated in physical sciences and are more attuned to energy considerations than to human-centric factors like indoor air quality. We need ongoing education for the current workforce and advanced training for the upcoming one to ensure a holistic understanding. Building design isn’t just about energy conservation; it’s primarily about fostering a conducive environment for its inhabitants. The essence of my answer: Education cannot be stressed enough.
Thanks, William. Donna, what steps is AIHA taking to curb the transmission of infectious diseases?
Certainly. AIHA is setting up a task force to delineate the Industrial Hygienist’s role concerning ASHRAE Standard 241. We aim to discern how our profession can facilitate the framing and execution of building readiness plans with guidelines on air changes and filtration during infection risk periods. Our task force will welcome AIHA members and non-members to encapsulate a broad perspective, including those of HVAC design engineers. We’ve made a public call for participation to bridge AIHA’s volunteer groups like the IAQ committee, sensor technologies committee, and big data committees with ASHRAE to bolster our joint endeavors to enhance indoor air quality.
Thank you, Donna. One more thing: How will the AIHA IAQ collaborate with other bodies framing guidelines and standards to make indoor spaces safer concerning infection risks?
Our task force is being established to pinpoint such collaboration opportunities. We’ll then rope in our committees, endowed with subject matter experts, to delve deep into each specific area.
Thank you. I have another question for Bill. ASHRAE Standard 241 was a significant accomplishment, especially in its timely delivery. How do you envision its successful implementation? Moreover, there was a question from the audience regarding the enforcement mechanisms for ASHRAE Standard 241. Is it the responsibility of states and municipalities to integrate it into building codes? And how can employees advocate for their workplaces to adopt the standards of 241?
There are multiple questions there. The challenge with standards is that they are only mandatory when an authority adopts them. We hope to advocate adopting 241 as part of an indoor air quality law. The model state Indoor Air Quality Act developed by Johns Hopkins could facilitate the adoption of 241. But it’s a lengthy process. I would suggest turning to government agencies, especially since they motivated the development of 241. They can adopt and showcase its effectiveness. We’re discussing with some agencies about piloting it and providing feedback. Another important aspect is that the standard was drafted in mandatory language, making it easier for authorities to adopt, unlike some other guidance created during the pandemic.
Thank you, Bill. Dave, can you discuss the range of strategies to enhance indoor air quality interventions, as mentioned in your guidance?
Certainly, Ken. We primarily recommend best practices in ventilation to dilute pollutants, filtration to remove them, and source control to limit their introduction. Ventilation and filtration offer multiple benefits by reducing concentrations of various indoor contaminants. Our program has emphasized key indoor air contaminants based on significant public health risks and policy considerations. These include radon, particulate matter, biological contaminants like mold and viruses, and specific chemical contaminants. A rising topic of discussion is monitoring to identify key building issues and the effectiveness of interventions. We’ve recently issued guidance about indoor sensor technology. It’s still an emerging field, but with new technology, we can address specific contaminants more effectively than before.
Thank you, Dave. Claire, your question?
Yes. I’d like to direct this to Dr. Gronvall or Dr. Allen. Given your research on buildings, exposure, that and public health, are there other factors we should consider when relying on mechanical systems for public health strategies? Are there other aspects, be it social or related to public health strategy, we need to be mindful of?
Most people naturally support improvements in public health. The challenge is demonstrating that it’s achievable and the benefits outweigh the costs. Historical changes in public health, like understanding cholera transmission through water, took significant time and effort. Building on decades of work is crucial.
To add, we need to focus on elevating the standard of poorly performing buildings. We should prioritize areas with the lowest ventilation rates, especially schools serving underprivileged populations. Waiting for a crisis to upgrade our standards isn’t effective. There are simple steps every building can follow, like commissioning, increasing outdoor air, enhancing filtration, and using air quality monitors. It’s not a costly endeavor to have healthy buildings.
Thank you, Joe. On the topic of California’s grant incentive for schools to monitor indoor air quality, are there similar federal programs upcoming?
Though not identical to California’s approach, there’s significant funding from the Department of Education under the bipartisan infrastructure law for monitoring in schools. Our forthcoming funds will potentially include monitoring as an eligible use based on stakeholder feedback.
Thank you, Dave. Claire, any closing remarks?
Thank you to everyone for this enlightening session. We’ll review all questions and forward them to relevant speakers for potential responses. This is the first in a four-part series on indoor air quality. Upcoming sessions will delve deeper into pathogens, ventilation, and emerging technologies. We appreciate the collaboration with IBEC and the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
To conclude, we must stay vigilant and proactive about indoor air quality, especially given the evolving nature of the pandemic and potential future health challenges. Thank you to our speakers and partners. We hope to see you in the next session. Goodbye.
American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs, and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA’s nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors and the communities in which they work.
Have a question about the event?
Connect with IBEC experts directly! Drop your queries below, and let's further the dialogue on preventing the spread of infectious diseases.