Predictive and retrospective modelling of airborne infection risk using monitored carbon dioxide
The risk of long range, herein ‘airborne', infection needs to be better understood and is especially urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. We present a method to determine the relative risk of airborne transmission that can be readily deployed with either modelled or monitored CO2 data and occupancy levels within an indoor space. For spaces regularly, or consistently, occupied by the same group of people, e.g. an open-plan office or a school classroom, we establish protocols to assess the absolute risk of airborne infection of this regular attendance at work or school. We present a methodology to easily calculate the expected number of secondary infections arising from a regular attendee becoming infectious and remaining pre/asymptomatic within these spaces. We demonstrate our model by calculating risks for both a modelled open-plan office and by using monitored data recorded within a small naturally ventilated office. In addition, by inferring ventilation rates from monitored CO2, we show that estimates of airborne infection can be accurately reconstructed, thereby offering scope for more informed retrospective modelling should outbreaks occur in spaces where CO2 is monitored. Well-ventilated spaces appear unlikely to contribute significantly to airborne infection. However, even moderate changes to the conditions within the office, or new variants of the disease, typically result in more troubling predictions.
Burridge, H. C., Fan, S., Jones, R. L., Noakes, C. J., Linden, P. F. (2021) Predictive and retrospective modelling of airborne infection risk using monitored carbon dioxide. Indoor and Built Environment.
Access the Open Access article here: https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326X211043564
The nexus between in-car aerosol concentrations, ventilation and the risk of respiratory infection
We examined the trade-offs between in-car aerosol concentrations, ventilation and respiratory infection transmission under three ventilation settings: windows open (WO); windows closed with air-conditioning on ambient air mode (WC-AA); and windows closed with air-conditioning on recirculation (WC-RC). Forty-five runs, covering a total of 324 km distance on a 7.2-km looped route, were carried out three times a day (morning, afternoon, evening) to monitor aerosols (PM2.5; particulate matter<2.5 μm and PNC; particle number concentration), CO2 and environmental conditions (temperature and relative humidity). Ideally, higher ventilation rates would give lower in-car pollutant concentrations due to dilution from outdoor air. However, in-car aerosol concentrations increased with ventilation (WO > WC-AA > WC-RC) due to the ingress of polluted outdoor air on urban routes. A clear trade-off, therefore, exists for the in-car air quality (icAQ) versus ventilation, where WC-RC showed the least aerosol concentrations (i.e. four-times lower compared with WO), but corresponded to elevated CO2 levels (i.e. five-times higher compared with WO) in 20 mins. We considered COVID-19 as an example of respiratory infection transmission. The probability of its transmission from an infected occupant in a five-seater car was estimated during different quanta generation rates (2–60.5 quanta hr-1) using the Wells-Riley model. In WO, the probability with 50%-efficient and without facemasks under normal speaking (9.4 quanta hr-1) varied only by upto 0.5%. It increased by 2-fold in WC-AA (<1.1%) and 10-fold in WC-RC (<5.2%) during a 20 mins trip. Therefore, a wise selection of ventilation settings is needed to balance in-car exposure in urban areas affected by outdoor air pollution and that by COVID-19 transmission. We also successfully developed and assessed the feasibility of using sensor units in static and dynamic environments to monitor icAQ and potentially infer COVID-19 transmission. Further research is required to develop automatic-alarm systems to help reduce both pollutant exposure and infection from respiratory COVID-19 transmission.
Kumar, P., Omidvarborna, H., Tiwaria, A., Morawska, L. (2021) The nexus between in-car aerosol concentrations, ventilation and the risk of respiratory infection. Environment International.
Access the Open Access article here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106814
Efficacy of facemasks in mitigating respiratory exposure to submicron aerosols
We designed a novel experimental set-up to pseudo-simultaneous measure size-segregated filtration efficiency (ηF), breathing resistance (ηP) and potential usage time (tB) for 11 types of face protective equipment (FPE; four respirators; three medical; and four handmade) in the submicron range. As expected, the highest ηF was exhibited by respirators (97±3%), followed by medical (81±7%) and handmade (47±13%). Similarly, the breathing resistance was highest for respirators, followed by medical and handmade FPE. Combined analysis of efficiency and breathing resistance highlighted trade-offs, i.e. respirators showing the best overall performance across these two indicators, followed by medical and handmade FPE. This hierarchy was also confirmed by quality factor, which is a performance indicator of filters. Detailed assessment of size-segregated aerosols, combined with the scanning electron microscope imaging, revealed material characteristics such as pore density, fiber thickness, filter material and number of layers influence their performance. ηF and ηP showed an inverse exponential decay with time. Using their cross-over point, in combination with acceptable breathability, allowed to estimate tB as 3.2-9.5 hours (respirators), 2.6-7.3 hours (medical masks) and 4.0-8.8 hours (handmade). While relatively longer tB of handmade FPE indicate breathing comfort, they are far less efficient in filtering virus-laden submicron aerosols compared with respirators.
Sharma, A., Omidvarborna, H., Kumar, P. (2021) Efficacy of facemasks in mitigating respiratory exposure to submicron aerosols. Journal of Hazardous Materials. Available online 8 August 2021, 126783.
Access the Open Access article here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.126783
Seasonal variation in airborne infection risk in schools due to changes in ventilation inferred from monitored carbon dioxide
The year 2020 has seen the world gripped by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not the first time, nor will it be last, that our increasingly globalized world has been significantly affected by the emergence of a new disease. In much of the Northern Hemisphere, the academic year begins in September, and for many countries, September 2020 marked the return to full schooling after some period of enforced closure due to COVID-19. In this paper, we focus on the airborne spread of disease and investigate the likelihood of transmission in school environments. It is crucial to understand the risk airborne infection from COVID-19 might pose to pupils, teachers, and their wider social groups. We use monitored CO2 data from 45 classrooms in 11 different schools from within the UK to estimate the likelihood of infection occurring within classrooms regularly attended by the same staff and pupils. We determine estimates of the number of secondary infections arising via the airborne route over pre/asymptomatic periods on a rolling basis. Results show that, assuming relatively quiet desk-based work, the number of secondary infections is likely to remain reassuringly below unity; however, it can vary widely between classrooms of the same school even when the same ventilation system is present. Crucially, the data highlight significant variation with the seasons with January being nearly twice as risky as July. We show that such seasonal variations in risk due to changes in ventilation rates are robust and our results hold for wide variations in disease parameterizations, suggesting our results may be applied to a number of different airborne diseases.
Vouriot, C. V. M., Burridge, H. C., Noakes, C. J., Linden, P. F. (2021) Seasonal variation in airborne infection risk in schools due to changes in ventilation inferred from monitored carbon dioxide. Indoor Air, 31 (4), pp. 1154-1163
Access the Open Access article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ina.12818