What’s Your IAQ?

Indoor air quality was getting attention even before the pandemic. But COVID-19 has pushed new technology and greater adoption of methods to make air cleaner and more conducive to well-being


senior living communities turned their at- tention to air circulation. The knowledge that air matters in infection prevention and control is basic to people in senior living, who take all steps possible to keep it clear and clean. “The good news: There is a strong foun-


dation for the importance of good indoor air quality,” says Marla Thalheimer, senior ESG program manager at RE Tech Advi- sors. “But COVID has catapulted this topic to the forefront.” Two statistics to keep in mind: • The EPA some years ago determined that most people spend 90 percent of their lives indoors. That’s a lot of breaths.

• Good indoor air quality can double cog- nitive performance scores, according to a joint study by Carrier, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syra- cuse University.

To reap these benefits, steps range from 10 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE MARCH/APRIL 2021

rom the beginning of the pan- demic, even before the coronavi- rus was discovered to be a greater airborne threat than a surface one,

simple and low-cost to using a highly effec- tive new technology (which is becoming less expensive as it becomes more widely used).

Putting ions to work While the technology of needlepoint bipo- lar ionization™

about 10 years, interest in and use of this system has jumped during the pandemic. “The link between COVID and air qual-

ity is becoming clearer,” says John Walter, executive vice president at Direct Supply. “We have found skilled nursing facilities

installing needlepoint bipolar ionization led to a measurable and reduced risk of COVID transmission compared to facilities that did not.” How it works (the short version): A device

in the air-handling system produces positive and negative ions. The ions work like bum- per cars, crashing into particles of mold, bacteria, and viruses—and the encounter ionizes the cells out of commission. The ions also knock out volatile organic com- pounds (such as paint fumes) and odors. And for the big finish, they cause the bacteria and virus particles to stick together

(NPBI) has been in use for

in clusters. On their own, the tiny virus particles could get through an air filter. But in clusters, they’re too big, and the filter catches them. There’s an important difference between

needlepoint bipolar ionization and previous versions of bipolar ionization: “The differ- ence is needlepoint bipolar ionization uses a smaller amount of electricity to generate the ion. When you use a larger amount of electricity that can create ozone, which is not good for an environment,” says Maria Pfeffer, PE, senior project manager at KFI Engineers, a firm in St. Paul, Minn. The systems are also self-cleaning and effectively no-maintenance. “NPBI is a relatively new technology for

senior living," says Direct Supply's Walter. "It is a key ingredient for improving air qual- ity and fighting known issues like influenza, so prospective residents can have faith that our buildings are, in fact, the safest places for them to live.” The caveat with unfamiliar technology is

the need for experience in installation. “We are making sure the installation is done properly by our network of experienced

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