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Can public spaces effectively be used as cleaner indoor air shelters during extreme smoke events?

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Wheeler, AJ ORCID: 0000-0001-9288-8163, Allen, RW, Lawrence, K, Roulston, CT, Powell, J, Williamson, GJ ORCID: 0000-0002-3469-7550, Jones, PJ ORCID: 0000-0002-4880-6711, Reisen, F, Morgan, GG and Johnston, FH ORCID: 0000-0002-5150-8678 2021 , 'Can public spaces effectively be used as cleaner indoor air shelters during extreme smoke events?' , International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 18, no. 8 , pp. 1-8 , doi: 10.3390/ijerph18084085.

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Abstract

During extreme air pollution events, such as bushfires, public health agencies oftenrecommend that vulnerable individuals visit a nearby public building with central air conditioningto reduce their exposure to smoke. However, there is limited evidence that these “cleaner indoorair shelters” reduce exposure or health risks. We quantified the impact of a “cleaner indoor airshelter” in a public library in Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia when concentrations of fine particulatematter (PM2.5) were elevated during a local peat fire and nearby bushfires. Specifically, we evaluatedthe air quality improvements with central air conditioning only and with the use of portable highefficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air cleaners. We measured PM2.5 from August 2019 untilFebruary 2020 by deploying pairs of low-cost PM2.5 sensors (i) inside the main library, (ii) in asmaller media room inside the library, (iii) outside the library, and (iv) co-located with regulatorymonitors located in the town. We operated two HEPA cleaners in the media room from August untilOctober 2019. We quantified the infiltration efficiency of outdoor PM2.5concentrations, defined asthe fraction of the outdoor PM2.5 concentration that penetrates indoors and remains suspended, aswell as the additional effect of HEPA cleaners on PM2.5 concentrations. The infiltration efficiency ofoutdoor PM2.5 into the air-conditioned main library was 30%, meaning that compared to the PM2.5concentration outdoors, the concentrations of outdoor-generated PM2.5 indoors were reduced by 70%.In the media room, when the HEPA cleaners were operating, PM2.5 concentrations were reducedfurther with a PM2.5 infiltration efficiency of 17%. A carefully selected air-conditioned public buildingcould be used as a cleaner indoor air shelter during episodes of elevated smoke emissions. Furtherimprovements in indoor air quality within the building can be achieved by operating appropriatelysized HEPA cleaners.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Wheeler, AJ and Allen, RW and Lawrence, K and Roulston, CT and Powell, J and Williamson, GJ and Jones, PJ and Reisen, F and Morgan, GG and Johnston, FH
Keywords: clean air shelter, air pollution, bushfires, particulate pollution, indoor air quality
Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publisher: MDPI AG
ISSN: 1661-7827
DOI / ID Number: 10.3390/ijerph18084085
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2021 by the authors.Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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