application methods in an effort to cover more area in a shorter amount of time,” writes Amanda Bakken, lead chemist and disinfection expert at Ecolab. “Practices that do not follow manufac-
turer’s instructions for use—such as mixing chemicals, using more cleaning agent than necessary or at the wrong concentration, or using chemicals for reasons other than their intended use or in a way other than its intended application—can have a negative impact on indoor air quality and safety,” she writes.
Look for EPA registration and follow the labels for use, how to apply, and time in contact with surfaces. “If people are in close proximity, consider applications that minimize aerosolization—such as wiping or flooding/immersion techniques—to ensure indoor air quality and the comfort of those in the space,” Bakken writes. Disinfectants, for instance, are meant
for hard surfaces—trying to spray them to disinfect the air won’t work but will badly affect indoor air quality. And keep in touch with your vendors,
Bakken says. The increased risks of infec- tion, often-changing guidance, and staff turnover have combined to make consulting experts more frequently more important.
Don’t overlook these “There are many things than can nega- tively impact air quality either from a health perspective—such as mold spores or biofilm—or from a resident perception perspective—such as odor challenges, writes Linda Homan, RN, BSN, CIC, senior man- ager of clinical affairs at Ecolab. “Through some of our senior living audits
we have uncovered potential risk in these often overlooked or infrequently used areas: “Drains can be a vector for transmission
of bacteria. There is evidence that sink, shower, and other wastewater drains in healthcare settings have been associated with outbreaks, particularly among the most vulnerable patient populations. “Implementing a routine drain disinfec-
tion program with a product that kills bacte- ria in biofilm, can maintain proper contact time for the product to take effect, and can be easily applied on a routine schedule may provide sustained decolonization of the sink drain, thereby preventing transmission of potentially dangerous pathogens from sinks.
12 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE MARCH/APRIL 2021
“Areas in which water is used, including
laundry and kitchens, areas containing wa- ter features such as fountains or aquariums, or areas that are susceptible to moisture could provide an environment for mold. Additionally, stagnant, or standing, water can cause conditions that increase risk for Legionella.”
The VOC factor “Have you ever walked into a room that's just been painted and you get an instant headache?” asks Thalheimer. “That strong odor is from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, released from the paint in the air.” These come from products we use every
day, she adds—even air fresheners. Flooring, rugs, upholstery, curtains, appliances—all can contribute to the effect. The EPA web page on the topic says “levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.”
Fortunately, many manufacturers have
since the 1990s been offering low-VOC versions of products, with these alternatives costing the same or very little more.
A community effort Finally, individual residents can make a difference: • Offer furnishings, surfaces, and finishes that are low-VOC when residents are choosing room options or resident com- mittees are looking into new carpets or flooring.
• Check out dry cleaning—are there strong chemical smells in the clothing after clean- ing? This may mean too many chemicals are being used. This is one of the major causes of VOCs and indoor air pollution. A community could offer delivery or cou- pons from a “greener” dry cleaner.
• Cleaning products don’t need to smell overwhelmingly strong to work. Share in- formation on using products correctly with residents who do their own cleaning.
Negative Pressure Rooms Can Help Keep Virus From Spreading
To help keep COVID-19 from spreading through circulating air, many communities are trying different setups to create negative pressure rooms.
The idea is to create an air flow in a space so that clean air flows in, but air that might carry aerosolized virus will flow out in only one direction and be exhausted from the building. This is not as complicated as it sounds, says Maria Pfeffer, PE, senior project manager at KFI Engineers—they plan them for schools so that children who are sick won’t spread an infection while waiting for someone to come pick them up.
An exhaust can be created with a fan—whatever will pull air out of the room and keep it from recirculating in the room or anywhere else in the community. Having a door that opens inward to the negative pressure space rather than outward to the positive space is necessary to maintain the airflow in the right direction. Some have created “foyer” areas with plastic sheeting outside rooms to make it possible to go in and out more easily.
The system can be monitored through the community’s IT system to ensure the pressure is working.
While many of today’s negative pressure systems are rigged with plastic sheeting, tubes, and plywood, negative pressure rooms or even wings are likely to be designed into new communities and put in during renovations— architects and designers say they’re being asked about them.
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