It should go without saying that vulnerable, high-risk or immunocompromised patients must breathe the cleanest air possible, air which has been treated to remove microorganisms that can contribute to HAIs or SSIs within the healthcare environment. This month’s post will begin evaluating some of the various strategies that help remediate the issue of mold growth in HVAC systems, going above-and-beyond a discussion on the more traditional (code mandated) media filtration approach.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) is a recognized technology which has proven to help provide surface disinfection which limits the growth of bacteria and mold-containing bio films on damp or wet componentry within air-handling units (AHUs). UVGI lamp systems are typically located immediately downstream of cooling coil and drain pan areas, where UVGI energy directed on these surfaces helps inactivate various organisms so they are unable to replicate and potentially cause disease. In addition to being an immediate health hazard, these bio films may also increase coil pressure drop and impact airflow (reducing code ventilation requirements) and affect heat exchanger efficiency (increasing energy costs). UVGI can be added to AHUs to complement conventional filtration methods, and has been shown to be beneficial in improving the air-quality attributes of a well-designed and properly maintained air-handling system. Ultimately, implementing effective microbial control should be based on comparing the various methods available, determining the performance required, and evaluating economic factors such as improved patient outcome, staff satisfaction, energy-use, and overall cost of ownership.