Effectiveness of air-purifying devices and measures to reduce the exposure to bioaerosols in school classrooms
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which suddenly appeared at the beginning of 2020, revealed our knowledge deficits in terms of ventilation and air pollution control. It took many weeks to realize that aerosols are the main route of transmission. The initial attempt to hold back these aerosols through textile masks seemed almost helpless, although there is sufficient knowledge about the retention capacity of fabric filters for aerosols. In the absence of a sufficient number of permanently installed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, three main approaches are pursued: (a) increasing the air exchange rate by supplying fresh air, (b) using mobile air purifiers, and (c) disinfection by introducing active substances into the room air. This article discusses the feasibility of these different approaches critically. It also provides experimental results of air exchange measurements in a school classroom that is equipped with a built-in fan for supplying fresh air. With such a fan and a window tilted at the appropriate distance, an air exchange rate of 5/h can be set at a low power level and without any significant noise pollution. Heat balance calculations show that no additional heat exchanger is necessary in a normal classroom with outside temperatures above 10°C. Furthermore, a commercial mobile air purifier is studied in a chamber and a test room setup in order to examine and evaluate the efficiency of such devices against viable viruses under controlled and realistic conditions. For this purpose, bacteriophages of the type MS2 are used. Both window ventilation and air purifiers were found to be suitable to reduce the concentration of phages in the room.