IQAir brings clean air to Southern California Schools

Following a successful air filtration demonstration project at Los Angeles and Long Beach area schools, IQAir North America was awarded a contract by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to install and maintain high-performance air filtration devices at more than 40 schools in a heavily industrialized section of Long Beach.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County, California, and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties in Southern California.

“We now know that these devices can be effective at reducing children’s exposure to particulate matter in the classroom,” said William A. Burke, Ed.D., former chairman of AQMD’s Governing Board. “This project will help reduce health effects that school children could suffer from high levels of outdoor air pollutants.”

Particle pollutants of varying sizes, including PM10, PM2.5, PM1, and ultrafine particles, are frequently generated by industrial facilities – like the Port of Los Angeles – and vehicle traffic.

Other sources of particle pollutants include:

Airborne particle pollutants are known to carry and help increase the spread of infectious diseases, such as SARS-CoV-2.1 Because PM2.5 is a solid aerosol, it can remain suspended in the air, allowing it to travel for a greater distance compared to respiratory liquid droplets. The virus, which can be deposited on surfaces along with PM2.5, can potentially lodge on the PM2.5 and be transported back into the air and further on.

In the years since IQAir was awarded the contract, record-breaking wildfires in California have contributed to increased outdoor air pollution levels. Wildfires emitted additional levels of particulate matter into the state’s air and, with wildfires worsening, created an additional pollutant concern for classrooms.

In response to increasing pollutant levels and airborne infectious disease concerns like COVID-19, California schools received a further requirement to monitor and respond to indoor pollutant concentrations in classrooms when the state passed Assembly Bill 841 in 2020.2

Settlement-funded school air filtration project

Funding for the project came from a settlement with the City of Los Angeles and community groups to mitigate outdoor air pollutant impacts from the TraPac Container Terminal Expansion Project at the Port of Los Angeles.

The approved project provided funding for the installation of high-efficiency air filtration devices for about 47 schools in the Wilmington area, a community heavily impacted by port-related activities.3 Additional filters were later installed in San Pedro area schools.4

The type of device installed at each school varied depending on the existing HVAC system at each school.

Funding also provided filter replacements and any needed system checks and repairs for five years. Installation of air filtration devices in Wilmington-area schools began in spring 2011.

Pilot study proved air cleaning efficacy

In early 2008, AQMD conducted a pilot study of classroom air purification systems at three elementary schools located near refineries, other industrial facilities, and freeways in the Carson-Long Beach area.5

The pilot study tested the effectiveness of various air filtration devices at removing pollutants from indoor air. The results showed that the low-cost, high-efficiency HVAC filters removed up to 90 percent of ultrafine particles and diesel particulate matter from indoor air.

The results showed that the low-cost, high-efficiency HVAC filters removed up to 90 percent of ultrafine particles and diesel particulate matter from indoor air.

Following the successful pilot study, in October 2008 AQMD approved $1.125 million from a penalty settlement with a nearby Valero oil refinery for high-efficiency air filtration devices at schools in the Long Beach and Los Angeles Unified School Districts.

While MERV 13 is often suggested to help mitigate transmission of infectious aerosols, it has not been tested to filter ultrafine particles. By contrast, MERV 16 and above — including NanoMax filtration – has been tested and proven through the study to filter up to 90% of particles without requiring ventilation beyond what's required by building codes.

In addition to the Wilmington project, four schools and one community center in San Bernardino and seven schools in the Boyle Heights area received air filtration devices funded by the UNOCAL Reformulated Gasoline Settlement Fund. AQMD worked closely with both communities to provide technical assistance and IQAir air quality technology during project implementation.

Both communities are heavily impacted by cumulative sources of air pollution and were chosen for a pilot study to develop community exposure reduction plans as part of AQMD’s Clean Communities Plan.

The success of these projects led IQAir to develop its own Clean Air Schools Program. The program was designed to help schools improve air quality through on-site assessment, installation, maintenance, air quality verification, monitoring, and renewal.

(NOTE: This story was originally an AQMD press release. It has since been updated and rewritten.)

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