Air filtration is an important component to a healthy indoor environment for essential businesses and any indoor space where workers are present. Air filters and air purifiers have become a crucial addition to these commercial indoor spaces to help in the filtration process of airborne pollutants, particulate matter, and pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and mold spores. Many pathogens can be spread through aerosolized droplets in the air and this can lead to risks of transmission in the indoor space.
In this article we are going to learn more about the risks of transmission of airborne microbes in restaurants, understand how pathogens are spread in this commercial space, and how an air purifier will help in a restaurant to prevent microbes spreading in this air space.
Why Hygiene is Important in Restaurants
Proper hygiene and cleanliness practices are vital to the restaurant industry in today’s world climate, and this includes making sure that the workers that are in this essential business are being protected and that they are than protecting the Customers who are being served from these essential workers. Food safety is defined as the handling, preparing and storing of food and beverages in a safe way to reduce the risks of consumers from becoming sick. The hygiene in a restaurant will start with the workers, with many of them handling the food and service it is vital that they maintain cleanliness standards such as washing hands frequently to minimize the spreading of viruses and bacteria.
Additionally, the indoor environment of the restaurant is another important aspect to a hygienic business. Cleaning the surfaces of this business with disinfectants and other cleaners to help eradicate pathogen growth – such as flooring, countertops, trays, etc. The process of using disinfectant cleaners will help to maintain a clean environment, and these actions should be taken several times throughout the day when preparing food and serving Customers. The most common form of pathogen spreading in a restaurant can include foodborne and airborne transmission – and therefore both of these fronts must be carefully considered and protected against within this essential business.
How Do Foodborne and Airborne Pathogens Spread
The transmission risks of pathogens today have become a huge cause for concern, especially in those essential businesses that are still working diligently to provide the public with various services, such as hospitals, restaurants, etc. A restaurant, in particular, has the ability to spread pathogens not only through the air but also through foodborne transmission, which increases the total risks to the public. The differences between foodborne and airborne pathogen transmission are quite varying, with each of these transmission paths having their risks to human health.
According to Texas A&M University, they state that airborne transmission of an illness in an indoor space will occur when a virus or bacteria travel onto dust particles or on small respiratory droplets that may become aerosolized when people sneeze, cough, laugh, or exhale. These airborne pathogens can also travel on air currents and can spread considerable distances which will potentially harm and infect a load of people. This type of transmission can be a heightened risk in restaurants as workers are working close together in the kitchen and other areas of the restaurant, as well as Customers who are seated within arms distance of one another – which will exponentially aid in the spreading of pathogens in the air to these closely positioned Customers.
Whereas, foodborne illnesses are caused by a variety of foodborne pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites that will contaminate the food. These various types of foodborne illnesses will lead to food poisoning and other foodborne illness that are the result of the consumption of tainted food. This transmission method can also be a risk in restaurants, especially when surfaces are not cleaned properly, or food is not cooked appropriately to the right temperatures.
Airborne vs Droplet Diseases
The pathways of transmission for pathogens is very versatile and thus it can lead you to multiple important methods of disease prevention in an indoor environment, especially an essential business who operates no matter the world conditions – such as a pandemic. The transmission of respiratory diseases, in particular, have become an increasing concern and the two main pathways for these pathogens is through airborne and droplet transmission. Each of these pathways for viruses and bacteria to enter into an environment can be a highly spreadable means to infecting a large number of people, particularly when these pathogens are spread in a confined indoor space such as a restaurant.
Droplet contact or transmission of human pathogens will be spread onto contacting surfaces such as the eyes, nose, or mouth on an exposed individual. These droplets can be generated by an infected person that coughs, sneezes, or talks that will release bodily fluids into the air. These aerosolized droplets of bodily fluid will contain microorganisms or pathogens that will easily spread throughout the air and settle onto surfaces in the environment. The droplets produced from an individual are too large to be airborne for long durations of times, and thus they will eventually and usually quickly settle out of the air and onto nearby surfaces. The best form of protection from droplet contact transmission is through the use of personal protective barriers, such as face masks and goggles.
Airborne transmission will work through situations where residue from evaporated droplets or dust particles containing microorganisms can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. These pathogens must be capable of surviving for long periods of time outside of the body and therefore must be resistant to drying. These airborne transmissions will allow for organisms to enter the upper and lower respiratory tracts. With the recent global pandemic of COVID-19 airborne transmission is one of the most feared risks of pathogen exposure to humans, especially in essential businesses where workers are stuck within a confined workspace.
Commercial Air Filters for Pathogen Mitigation
The spread of pathogens between humans falls into direct or indirect contact; through airborne transmission, contaminated object and surface contact, and food and drinking water contamination. These three routes of indirect spread are often the result of contamination by the spray of droplets during coughing and sneezing, which can facilitate the spread of an infectious disease. Aerosolized droplets from humans range in size from .6 microns to over 1000 microns, collected from research published in the Characterizations of Particle Size Distribution of the Droplets Exhaled by Sneeze publication. Thus, the threat of exposure to an airborne pathogen can be potentially more significant, especially in certain medical care facilities such as dental settings.
Additionally, Ultraviolet light (UV light) is a known method for the inactivation or reduction in viability of pathogens, according to the CDC’s Infection Control Guidelines. However, the correct wavelength and control measures must be considered to avoid damage to the skin and eyes, as many UV light wavelengths can produce dangerous wavelengths that will ultimately produce ozone – a dangerous byproduct – within the indoor air space, reported by the American Cancer Society. Many air purification devices contain these UV lights to enable the capability to deactivate these airborne pathogens within the air purification system, but unfortunately a vast majority of these UV lights used in air purifiers fall within these hazardous wavelength production ranges which allow for the creation of ozone byproducts in the air.
Restaurant Air Purifier
The EnviroKlenz UV System solves the dosage problems by placing the UV-C light before the HEPA filter which captures biological contaminants 0.3 microns and larger. The droplet size from coughing or sneezing humans is very broad, and a HEPA filter can capture the bulk of that particulate matter range. Integrating UV lamps within the air purification device allows for continual bathing of the collection site of the HEPA filter, which allows for the items collected on the surface of the HEPA filter to get a lengthened or even infinite residence time. In the EnviroKlenz Mobile Air System with UV lights, the pathogens are exposed to the UV-C light as long as the unit and its lights remain on in the air purification system.
This means that even though the UV lamp is relatively low intensity, given the airflow of the unit (approximately 80-250 cfm), the UV-C dosage required for destruction is created for the trapped pathogen because it will continue to be exposed to the UV-C radiation regardless of how quickly air is passing through the unit.
- Texas A&M University: Airborne/Foodborne Illness (link)
- Journal of the Royal Society Interface: Characterizations of Particle Size Distributions of the Droplets Exhaled by Sneeze (link)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Infection Control (link)
- American Cancer Society: Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation (link)