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How Bipolar Ionization Tech Will Help Hospitality Win the War Against COVID-19

Indoor ultraviolet and bipolar ionization technologies help the hospitality industry mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and improve air quality for the long term

Similar to the Allied victory in World War II, the battle against the coronavirus will most likely be won as an “air fight”. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, cleaning indoor air should be at the center of all mitigating solutions to safeguard against the spread of the virus – but it’s still not. Even the CDC left that off the priority list when it recently released guidelines on how to open schools safely, which included social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, surface cleaning and contact tracing.

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All the masks and vaccines in the world won’t overcome the virus’s spread as quickly as we would like. This is especially troubling since restaurants were among the hardest hit by the pandemic where millions of jobs have been lost or severely impacted by the outbreak. As of 2020 the industry has lost more than $240 billion in sales and hundreds of thousands of restaurant businesses have permanently closed.

The question is, why are the same old tactics being used to avoid getting sick? Tactics that  didn’t generate positive results 103 years ago during the 1918 pandemic – the use of masks and social distancing – instead of deploying modern technology to overcome the virus that eventually killed more than 675,000 people in the US alone.

Fortunately, the answer is that more and more restaurants are turning to ultraviolet (UV-C) light and bipolar ionization (BPI) to kill bacteria and viruses. For example, portable tabletop disinfection devices that integrate ultraviolet light with photoplasma can purge the air of COVID-19 in seconds. The devices are easy to set up and measure less than 12” by 9” tall, so they don’t block conversations across tables.

What’s more, these tabletop disinfection systems can operate on batteries given that many dining tables do not have easy access to electrical outlets. For facilities with average air circulation of four air changes per hour (AHC), a typical device can adequately cover up to 415 square feet. Other portable devices have larger coverage areas, which is particularly relevant for restaurants that may have approximately 1,600 square feet or more of dining area.  

The ability to disinfect air in any size indoor space is proven, available and affordable. The cost to disinfect the air in heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts is often less than 50 cents per square foot of conditioned space. Many providers also offer zero upfront cost financing options with low monthly payments. Additionally, some installers offer Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as a service, which also has no upfront cost. The added advantage is that the advanced technologies clean the fan coils and reduce the need for outside replacement air. This saves energy, which often more than covers the cost of the disinfection.

As government funding starts to become available, many states will offer grants for ventilation and indoor air improvement as well as there will be utility company rebates to help lower the cost of upgrading HVAC systems.

As a result, building owners are starting to turn to air purification technology providers to reduce “sick building syndrome” and improve indoor air quality at their buildings. In addition to tabletop devices, a restaurant owner can also install UV-C or BPI air purification systems in their building’s existing air handling units to clean the air and prevent pathogens from passing into the ducts that supply air to all the rooms in the space. This not only prevents the spread of pathogens but also reduces energy costs, which translates into cost savings for the needed economic recovery.

How ionization works

Much like sunlight does in the atmosphere, improved indoor air quality through ultraviolet or bipolar ionization can deactivate airborne viruses. Ultraviolet reduces the ability of pathogens to replicate, and bipolar ionization devices create millions of positive and negative ions in the air that attach to and inactivate the COVID-19 acellular microorganisms

Ions are all around us and serve as little “ninjas” that go after COVID-19. When ions come into contact with a microorganism such as COVID-19, they attach to the “spikes” on the pathogen and disrupt its surface proteins, rendering it inactive. Since ion density is higher outdoors than indoors, ions are the reason that restaurants are encouraged to have outdoor dining. The higher the concentration of ions, the higher the likelihood that they can connect and inactivate COVID-19 that is floating in the air. Independent research has shown that airborne bacteria and viruses—including COVID-19—were reduced by 99% within minutes of exposure to the purification systems described.

The true battlefield of WWII was not on land. It was a massive air and sea super-battlefield that stretched for thousands of miles. Victory in this super-battlefield eventually won the war. Combatting COVID-19 is an air war that can be won with the right technology and the service providers who understand how to use the weapons.

About the Author

Charlie Szoradi is CEO of Purge Virus, a service organization that provides advanced in-duct disinfection technology to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and future viruses. In 2009, Szoradi was elected to the Board of the Sustainable Business Network and selected as a member of the Green Economy Task Force, with direct participation on the Capitol Hill Delegation.

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