Providing UK Schools with C02 Monitors Won’t Stop the Spread of COVID-19

The Department for Education will only be funding Carbon Dioxide (C02) monitors

Schoolchildren, UK, COVID, C02

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in the UK and internationally, attention is inevitably shifting towards “living with COVID-19” despite the rampant spread of new variants (e.g Delta). For schools, this means minimising any disruption for staff and students. In light of the current situation, the UK Department for Education recently announced they’ll provide schools around England with air quality monitors, in a bid to reduce the risk of COVID transmission. The move towards more air quality monitoring should be encouraged, but the approach being taken by the Department for Education is insufficient. 

The Department for Education will only be funding Carbon Dioxide (C02) monitors. This will do little to help mitigate infections. In this short article, we’ll explain why monitoring Co2 levels in itself isn’t enough and why more air quality monitoring is required.  

It is relevant at the outset to emphasise that BlockDox is hardware agnostic. We work with a range of air quality monitors. We believe it is important for the correct set of monitoring to take place, and C02 alone is insufficient. 

CO2 is a gas commonly associated with people exhaling. Moderate levels of CO2 can cause a decline in concentration, headaches and fatigue.  In indoor environments, such as a classroom with insufficient ventilation, it will not be surprising to see elevated C02 levels. Moderate levels of CO2 causes a decline in concentration, headaches and fatigue but this does not necessarily correlate to impacting COVID-19 infection.

To detect conditions in which viruses thrive, monitoring C02 will not suffice. Numerous studies conducted throughout the pandemic have repeatedly shown that the type of environment more likely to cause COVID-19 transmission includes elevated levels of PM2.5, high temperature, and high humidity in addition to carbon dioxide. By "only" monitoring C02, schools will not have access to the bigger picture or the most useful air quality data. Additionally school’s site/facilities managers will be missing out on all the vital information they need in order to effect the correct strategy from a holistic standpoint - which includes several indoor air parameters and occupancy data.

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Furthermore, improving your indoor air quality not only reduces adverse health risks, and the chances pupils and staff will be absent due to illness, but it can also enhance learning conditions and reassure staff, visitors, students and their parents that the school is healthy. Ignoring the potential repercussions from poor air quality will simply put staff and students at a disadvantage.

Our comprehensive dashboard goes beyond what an air monitor offers. We provide real time and predictive insights about occupancy, energy and indoor air quality (IAQ). BlockDox allows you to access detailed information on your IAQ composition such as temperature, humidity, VOC’s, PM2.5, radon, CO2, indoor/outdoor air quality and weather data. When unhealthy levels are reached, we send you alerts and notifications so you can take action. Having this level of granularity will help you to create the optimal and safest environment for staff and students alike. 

Importantly, we are able to put air quality data into context. A C02 measurement alone has little meaning without understanding how it relates to other factors in the school - such as how many people are using the building, what steps are being taken to improve air quality, the energy cost, performance and effectiveness of those measures. This offers better value than a C02 monitor in isolation. 

With us you can effectively address the immediate concerns that poor air quality and COVID-19 have brought to your school. Together we can take steps to reduce the risk of transmission as you welcome staff and students back to school.