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  • Art Goguen

EPA Announces Clean Indoor Air Challenge

On March 3, as part of President Biden's National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the new “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge” as a call to action with a concise set of guiding principles and steps to assist building managers with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors.

The Challenge sets forth recommendations and resources that can assist with improving ventilation and overall indoor air quality, which can directly and indirectly reduce the spread of COVID-19.

With Omicron BA.2 now on the rise, the EPA’s challenge couldn’t come at a better time.

“Protecting our public health means improving our indoor air quality,” explained EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today, EPA is following through on President Biden’s plan to move our nation forward in a healthy, sustainable way as we fight COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, building managers and facility staff have been on the frontlines, implementing approaches to protect and improve indoor air quality to reduce risks and keep their occupants safe and healthy, and we are so grateful for their efforts. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is an important part of helping us all breathe easier.”

Enhancing Our Infrastructure for a Healthier Future

A large portion of disease transmission occurs indoors, where particles can hang in the air relatively undisturbed (and more likely to cause infection) for longer periods of time.

Infectious diseases like COVID-19 and influenza frequently spread through the inhalation of airborne particles and aerosols. Reducing airborne infectious aerosol exposure is challenging but manageable.

In addition to other layered prevention strategies like vaccination, actions to improve ventilation, filtration, and other proven air-cleaning strategies can reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and other contaminants, improving overall indoor air quality and better protecting building occupants.

Key actions outlined in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge include:

  • Create a clean indoor air action plan,

  • Optimize fresh air ventilation,

  • Enhance air filtration and cleaning, and

  • Conduct community engagement, communication, and education.

While these recommendations won't eliminate all risk, they can still have a significant impact.

A Customized Approach for Greater Success

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge presents multiple options and best practices for building owners and operators to choose from, but the best combination of actions (and how to prioritize them) will vary for individual facilities.

Creating an optimized strategy depends on:

  • current public health guidance

  • building dimensions, layout, and infrastructure

  • the type of installed HVAC equipment

  • how well HVAC equipment has been setup and maintained

  • who and how many people are in the building

  • the activities that occur in the building

  • outdoor air quality

  • climate and local weather conditions

  • and other factors

Of course, building infrastructure improvements can be costly.

Fortunately, American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds can be used to supplement ventilation and indoor air quality improvements in public settings.

A Challenge Backed by Multiple Federal Agencies

To develop the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, the EPA and White House COVID-19 Response Team consulted with the CDC, Department of Energy, and several other federal agencies with roles in promoting healthy indoor air quality. The document, which highlights an array of helpful resources, will be made available in Spanish, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Arabic, and Russian.

Need help? We have you covered.

If you need help creating a strategic plan of action to enhance indoor air quality in your facility, Higgins and Associates' experienced EHS professionals can help.

For more information, contact Art Goguen, Director of EHS, at (303) 994-8122. You can also visit our website to learn more about all of our healthcare EHS services.

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