The hazard of recirculated air was first identified 20 years ago in our personal injury defective product lawsuits representing electronic industry workers exposed to toxic chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects.
Carcinogens were found in offices spaces far from fabrication lines as a result of
• common air returns in HVAC systems
• reduced intake of fresh air on hot days to maximize the reuse of cooled air and
• recirculation of old air by ventilation systems.
And not just in plants in Silicon Valley, but also at a gallium arsenide wafer plant in Oakland, IBM in East Fishkill, NY, United Technologies in Hartford, CT, and National SemiConductor in Greenock, Scotland.
Recirculating used air is endemic in all HVAC systems.
Duration of exposure is an important factor in contracting the virus, as everyone working in a hospital knows. If you are working in an enclosed office building or manufacturing plant, you are breathing air that has recirculated three to four times an hour throughout an eight-hour workday. Remember that in Legionnaire’s Disease, HVAC systems were at fault for recirculating bacteria throughout enclosed spaces in hotels and ships.
Today, MERV 13 filters mandated in California in new HVAC systems starting January 1, 2020 can remove 90% of the particles measuring 0.3 to 10 microns, 90% in the 1 to 3 micron and 50% of the 0.3 to 1 micron range. And these filters can be used in existing systems.
The problem is that COVID-19 can pass through a MERV 13 filter because they measure 0.13 microns. But the virus spreads through droplets and micro droplets. Typically, the virus attaches to particles or droplets which should be filtered by a MERV 13 filter. That’s why HEPA filtering systems are used in hospitals. They filter 99.97% of particles 0.1 microns and larger, are a more effective solution for COVID-19.
Retrofitting offices and other buildings for HEPA filters is unlikely because conventional ventilation systems cannot handle the increased load that HEPA filtration imposes on mechanical gear and the expense is a deterrent.
The easiest and safest solution for minimizing the risk of COVID-13 circulating in existing HVAC systems is to use 100% fresh air. Fresh air mitigates the risk of coming into contact with internally circulated droplets carrying the virus. In cooler weather and climates, using 100% fresh air in air conditioning systems is easily accomplished.
But when weather heats up and HVAC systems are used to cool large buildings, they commonly use 60% recirculated air and reduce fresh air intake to 40% of the air recirculated in a building. And there’s the risk.
Ask your company or building’s management if MIRV 13 filters have been installed, how often they will be changed, and how often they will operate at 100% fresh air to minimize COVID-19 circulation in the air conditioning system at your workplace.
Our office building uses MIRV 13 filters. For increased safety we have purchased portable carbon and HEPA air purifiers, to protect our staff and clients. Consumer Reports gave the highest rating to Blueair filters, but they cannot be found. We gave up looking for Blueairs and bought RabbitAir purifiers with germ filters for everyone in our office.
Lastly, if you work in an older building and can open a window, do it.
Contact an Experienced Silicon Valley Product Liability & Defective Products Attorney
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.