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Can understanding CO2 levels help to prevent the spread of infectious disease?

Understanding how much ‘recycled’ (previously exhaled) air is in a room can help workplaces, businesses and schools to estimate the risk of infection from respiratory-spread diseases, including COVID-19.

Everyone knows that keeping doors and windows closed in the winter months helps to keep buildings warm and save energy. However, at a time of year when infections are more likely to spread, reducing ventilation can increase the risk of infection by keeping infectious particles in the nearby air for longer.

So, how can infection risk in buildings be monitored effectively? New research* suggests that understanding Indoor Air Quality is a cost-effective way for businesses, workplaces and schools to estimate the potential for the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

As building occupants exhale, aerosols and droplets (small liquid airborne particles) that may carry infectious diseases are released into the air alongside Carbon Dioxide. Monitoring CO2 levels in rooms and buildings is therefore a practical way of monitoring the risk of infection: if the CO2 concentration in a room indicates the quantity of 'recycled' air that has previously been exhaled by occupants, then it also indicates the concentration of potentially infectious aerosols and droplets by proxy.

While directly monitoring the concentration of aerosols and droplets that are breathed into the air is expensive and impractical, CO2 levels can easily be monitored with cost-effective sensors.

Tinytag CO2 data loggers offer a simple and affordable solution to understanding Indoor Air Quality. Simple plug-and-play set-up allows users to begin monitoring CO2 levels straight away in any location. With no wiring necessary, a compact design and discreet grey casing, a Tinytag CO2 data logger can be placed in any room with a mains supply for unobtrusive monitoring, and easily transferred between locations for whole building assessment. Programmable alarms can be set to alert the user when CO2 levels have reached a user-defined parameter, enabling responsive action to be taken if levels are too high. High accuracy and 'self-calibration' of the data logger's sensor helps to guarantee reliable data and strong performance over time.

Understanding the air profile of a room on an average day can help businesses and public institutions to implement effective mitigation strategies to reduce occupant exposure to potentially infectious particles. Data logger alarms can alert the user of the need to increase ventilation immediately, while long-term data acquisition can illuminate the typical air quality profile of a room and help users to understand whether mitigation strategies, such as wearing face masks indoors or improving a building's mechanical ventilation system, would be beneficial.

Temperature and relative humidity data loggers can also be used alongside CO2 data loggers to help assess indoor environmental conditions and ensure that building occupants are safe and comfortable.

Tinytag Explorer data logging software makes analysis of the data gathered easy. Data loggers are plugged into a computer at the end of the logging period, and data is downloaded and immediately available for viewing in graphs or tables. Useful features such as data overlays and alignments enable data from different logging runs to be compared and synchronised. Data can also be easily exported to third party software for more detailed analysis and presentation.

Get data you can trust from an ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited manufacturer. Tinytag data loggers are manufactured in the UK by Gemini Data Loggers (UK) Ltd.

*https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/many-ventilation-systems-may-increase-risk-of-covid-19-exposure-study-suggests

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