Op-ed: New standards could greatly improve indoor air

May 17, 2023 – New indoor ventilation targets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as enhanced ventilation standards from an industry group, could help significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Joseph Allen.

Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings Program, discussed the new standards in a May 15 opinion piece in the Washington Post. “We might be on the verge of an indoor air quality revolution, and it could be among the most important public health victories of the 21st century,” he wrote.

The CDC’s new ventilation target, released on May 12, calls for at least five air changes per hour (ACH)—meaning that all of the air in a room is replaced five or more times within an hour. A typical home has less than 0.5 ACH, Allen noted.

The new standards are in line with guidance that Allen and other experts developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, outlined both in JAMA and in recommendations from a task force that Allen chairs for the Lancet COVID-19 Commission.

Shortly after the CDC announced its new indoor air standards, another influential standard-setting organization—the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers—released its own enhanced ventilation standard, currently open for public comment.

The new ventilation targets could help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and other pathogens, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and could also decrease impacts related to poor ventilation such as headaches, inability to concentrate, and impaired thinking, Allen wrote.

Read Allen’s Washington Post article: Opinion: We might be on the verge of an indoor air quality revolution