Air Purifiers Used to Combat Covid in Schools

Air purifiers are being tested in schools in a pilot scheme to tackle Covid in confined spaces.

Thirty primary schools in Bradford are taking part in the Government-funded research project, which could be scaled up to operate nationwide.

The study could deliver a “massive prize” in the fight against Covid, while also cutting absences because of cold and flu and improving the air quality for pupils with asthma and hay fever.

With the first results from the trial due before the end of the year, it could pave the way for a rollout of the technology across the country in 2022.

The research is being conducted by the Centre for Applied Education Research – a collaboration involving the universities of Leeds, Bradford and York, Bradford Council and the Department for Education.

The study has been backed with £1.8m from the Department for Health and Social Care.

Professor Mark Mon-Williams of the University of Leeds, who is leading the project, said the trial has “the potential for putting devices in schools that could basically make them Covid secure" and added: "We’ll also be able to see how many children are turning up with Covid or having an asthma attack.”

Data collection will begin in September and run for a whole school year.

Air purifiers in schools can also tackle airborne illnesses, such as asthma, wheezing, coughing and hay fever.

Beyond Covid

The introduction of effective air purifiers could provide benefits that go far beyond simply combatting Covid, the professor leading the project said.

“There is another very large prize on offer, which is large numbers of children miss school because of various airborne illnesses – so there’s an opportunity to tackle two things simultaneously.” 

HEPA filters remove particles above a certain size – including Covid - from the air. However, these filters have the added benefits of removing “nasty air pollution particulate matter as well”, which could help children with conditions ranging from asthma to hay fever.

How air purifiers work

Purifiers are used to improve air quality in a room, removing particles from the atmosphere such as dust, allergens and contaminants.

They can work by a system of filtration to clean the air which passes through them.

HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) purifiers have a fan to draw polluted air into the device. The air is then passed through a filter which ensnares tiny particles in the fibres.

After the filtration process, the air is pumped back into the room.

A trial of the use of air purifiers in primary schools in London in 2018/2019 reported it improved pupils’ test results and resulted in fewer absences due to ill health.

Act now say SAGE

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) asked the Government to implement new guidelines for air purification systems to keep consumers safe in November last year.

Purifiers can range in cost from around £200 to more than £1,000 depending on the type and the area of space to be purified.

Among the mainstream brands available in the UK are Winix, Boneco, Dyson and Philips.

A Winix Zero Pro air purifier costs in the region of £329 while a Boneco P340 purifier sells for £229, both using HEPA filters.

A trial of the use of air purifiers in primary schools in London in 2018/2019 found it improved pupils’ results and resulted in fewer absences due to ill health.

A survey of teaching staff a year after use revealed 89% felt it had improved children’s learning and 51% said they had noticed a drop in absences for sickness.

Not just good news for schools

Although the current trials are aimed at proving the efficacy of air purifiers in schools, it is already long established that purifiers also provide great benefits in the home and workplace.

For instance, the Zero Pro from Winix is already the choice of hundreds of UK dentists who have chosen this particular purifier to ensure that their surgeries maintain a healthy air environment and helped ensure that they could re-open their doors to patients sooner, even during the lockdown periods.

The efficiency of the Winix at combatting viruses lies in its unique PlasmaWave technology which creates Hydroxyl molecules that neutralise viruses, bacteria and gases without producing any harmful ozone. This technology, combined with a washable pre-filter, washable active carbon filter and an antimicrobial True HEPA filter makes the Winix a stand out product.

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