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Can good ventilation help in stopping COVID-19 spread?

Last updated 4 months ago by UtrechtCentral.com

With a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, and deaths globally, questions are raised about its transmission routes and precautionary measures that can help in preventing the spread. At present, the Netherlands has Europe’s second-highest rate of infection with an average of 322 new infections per 100,000 people in the last two weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Amid these tough times, it is vital to take as many precautions as possible, which includes hand washing, wearing face masks, and disinfecting surfaces, among others. However, some researchers recently said that ventilation has a link to the virus. Let’s have a look.

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

Ventilation and COVID

According to a recent study by Dutch researchers, good ventilation, especially in public spaces such as trams and hospitals, helps in slowing down the spread of the deadly virus. The results of the study published in the scientific journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine state that the small droplets from cough or sneeze, known as aerosols, stay in the air for many minutes at poorly ventilated places. The small droplets are known as potential carriers of virus particles.

In the study, healthy people were asked to cough and speak, while the researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), monitored the aerosols’ distribution with laser light. Researchers found the smaller aerosols stayed in the air for long, and it took about five minutes for them to half in the non-ventilated room. The aerosols were halved in about 2.5 minutes in the ventilated room. The study further found that the smaller aerosols were halved in about 30 seconds in the room with open doors and windows.

However, there is no actual evidence that better ventilation leads to fewer infections. The Dutch public institute RIVM advises on similar lines, stating, “good ventilation is not only required for a healthy and pleasant indoor climate, but it also helps to limit the transmission of respiratory infections, such as COVID-19.” The institute recommends ventilating indoors with fresh air – either by leaving the windows open, by opening ventilation grills or gaps, or by mechanical ventilation systems, especially after cooking, showering or hosting people.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), increasing ventilation helps in “lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants, or contaminants, including any viruses that may be in the air.”

Photo credit: Feenstra.com

Ventilation at homes

Another study conducted by the technology installation company, Feenstra, states that almost 70% (N = 1,352) of the residents ventilate their homes. Around 57% of them believe that COVID-19 and ventilation are linked. Despite that, around 49% of the respondents of the study do not clean the ventilation system.

With the rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths globally, the governments worldwide are tightening the rules, and advising people to stay indoors. This is when a healthy indoor climate with good ventilation at home becomes all the more important, and so does timely cleaning of these systems.

Feenstra study, however, states people don’t realize the importance of cleaning the ventilation system. “In more than a million homes in the Netherlands, the air quality is downright unhealthy. As a company, we naturally keep a close eye on the developments and the recommendations regarding ventilation and Corona. But ventilation is more important now, more than ever,” said Adriaan Pietersma, Director General, Feenstra. “The supply of fresh oxygen-rich air and the removal of oxygen-poor air must take place throughout the day. After some time, the air quality in a house decreases. To prevent health problems, it is important to let fresh, oxygen-rich air into the house and remove polluted air. If this is not done, moisture problems and mold will develop, which can even pose a health hazard.”

Photo credit: Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

Tips for good ventilation hygiene – by RIVM and Feenstra

  • Ventilate your houses with fresh air – leaving doors and windows open at a tilt
  • Air out indoor spaces – for instance leaving doors/windows open opposite to each other for 10-15 minutes to create a good draft.
  • If the weather is warm, you can use a fan or air conditioner. However, this will not refresh air, but only move it around. You can also place a fan in front of the window in the evening. This allows you to bring cool and fresh air inside the house faster.
  • Check whether you have sufficient ventilation points in the home, at least in the kitchen, bathroom, and toilet.
  • Make sure the ventilation system at your home is clean.
  • Clean ventilation grilles at least once a month.
  • Replace the filters every six months in a heat recovery installation.
  • With mechanical ventilation, have the motor and the extraction valves checked and cleaned at least every two years.
  • Have the ventilation ducts cleaned once every four to six years.
  • Three-position ventilation knobs: set the knob to 2 when at home, and to 3 when cooking and showering. Does your ventilation system have two settings? Then, set the button to 1 by default, and to 2 for cooking /showering.

There are several other ways through which the virus can be spread or infect humans, thus these measures to reduce airborne transmission are not enough. Good ventilation with fresh air and mechanical ventilation systems are part of larger precautionary measures, including wearing face masks, social distancing, handwashing, and other rules advised by the governments and health institutes. 

Mamta Banga
Mamta Banga
A writer by choice and a reader by heart, I'm a storyteller by nature. I've got a knack for reading fiction, but I enjoy the adrenaline of writing about facts and real-life experiences. I've recently graduated from the University of Amsterdam and now trying to make a mark in the creative industry. I've extensive experience in working with various media organizations previously, including Microsoft and Reuters, for more than a decade. I am a traveler at heart who doesn’t like to touch and tick the bucket list, rather breathe and explore different cities and cultures.


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