Environmental data monitoring and infection risks in UK care-homes in the context of COVID-19

Kishwer Abdul Khaliq, Sara Mohamad, Alexander J. Edwards, Catherine Noakes*, Andrew H. Kemp, Carl Thompson, Gráinne McGill, Tim Sharpe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to the critical role of building ventilation as a measure for controlling infection transmission. With the substantial number of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes worldwide, the effectiveness of ventilation is an important consideration for infection control and wider exposure to indoor air pollutants. In this study, we used IoT-based sensors in two residential care homes to evaluate ventilation in various areas, including bedrooms, corridors, and communal spaces. Our monitoring focused on carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as a proxy for ventilation, as well as temperature and humidity, during the spring of 2022. We also developed a ventilation model using the software CONTAM and coupled it with an infection risk model to assess airborne transmission risks under different weather and occupancy conditions. Our results suggest that ventilation is generally adequate based on UK COVID-19 guidelines at the time, with CO2 below 800 ppm for the majority of the time, and opening windows in communal spaces in elderly care environments can help preserve indoor ventilation during periods of high occupancy. However, modelling data suggests that low CO2 values may be indicative of low occupancy in many spaces and therefore ventilation rates may not be sufficient to mitigate infection transmission. Encouraging positive ventilation behaviours in staff and residents, potentially supported by visible CO2 monitors, and taking additional precautions such as using air cleaners, enabling additional window openings or staff wearing masks during outbreaks and periods of high disease prevalence is likely to be beneficial for resident and staff health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111174
Number of pages16
JournalBuilding and Environment
Volume250
Early online date12 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • data visualization
  • IAQ
  • indoor environment
  • long term monitoring CO

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