Improving ventilation and indoor air quality inside academic facilities can enhance infectious disease resilience.

The importance of indoor air quality in higher education

Improving ventilation and cleaning the air inside academic facilities can enhance infectious disease resilience--and it's why indoor air quality is paramount

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health has become a serious priority, especially regarding the education system and in-person learning. 

At the start of the outbreak, educators, eager to provide a safe learning environment, moved in-person instruction to a virtual format. Yet, after more than a year of online schooling, students and faculty are eager to return to the classroom. 

College and university leaders acknowledge that in-person interaction with professors and other students is an important aspect of higher education. But returning to the classroom means moving students and educators inside, breathing the same air. And now, there’s the potential threat of COVID-19’s Delta variant generating a resurgence of infection. 

Higher education professionals are responding to the challenge by implementing recommended strategies such as mask and vaccination adherence. They are also being advised to put critical focus on improving the once overlooked factor of indoor air quality if they are to protect the health and safety of their students, faculty and staff. 

Why focus on indoor air quality? 

At first, knowing how coronavirus was spread, and what to do to mitigate infection, was unclear. People grasped for solutions. Hand sanitizers flew off the shelves and people spent their days scrubbing down surfaces.

We now have sound evidence, thanks to science, that the virus is most often spread via airborne aerosols. When people sneeze, cough, or talk they expel particles that contain droplets and aerosols. Aerosols are light and can drift and linger in the air for hours, particularly indoors, causing potential transmission of the coronavirus. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says hand sanitizing and surface cleaning does not offer enough protection in indoor spaces. So, improving indoor air quality to mitigate airborne infection in our institutes of higher education is of utmost concern. To be safe, indoor air requires purifying potential airborne contaminants. 

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